When is a child ready to start learning how to use the toilet?  When is she ready to switch from diapers to training pants?  The following list includes suggestions from a variety of sources which ask that question

"Is your child ready?"

            -Does your child stay dry for 1 1/2 to 2 hours at a time during the day?

            -Does he wake up with a dry diaper in the morning or after nap frequently?

            -Does she ask to be changed or indicate that she has urinated or had a bowel movement?

            -Does he show an awareness that he is urinating or having a bowel movement (pauses during play)?  

            -Are bowel movements regular and fairly well formed?

            -Is she at least 24 months old?

            -Is he able to get onto and stay on the potty or toilet without help?

            -Is she able to pull pants down and up independently?

            -Is he interested in modeling or imitating others, and does he want to please you?

            -Does she take great pride in tasks she does independently?

            -Is he interested in keeping himself clean or in cleaning other things?

            -Does he ask to use the potty or ask to wear underwear?

Are you ready for your child to learn to use the potty?

            -Do you have a potty that sits on the floor or a seat to put on the toilet?  (Either is fine.)

            -Do you have a large supply of cloth training pants or underpants*?

            -Do you have a large supply of pants which are easy to pull up and down?  (Not difficult fasteners or belts.)

            -Do you know where bathrooms are in your grocery store and other stores?

-Are you ready emotionally and committed to spending a few weeks dealing with quite a few accidents?  Accidents will happen--they are part of the learning process.

Once you feel you and your child are ready (he may not necessarily show all of the preceding signs), introduce him to the idea of using the toilet once in a while. Show him the potty or the seat on the toilet and see if he will sit on it.  Do not force this, give him time.  Once he seems comfortable with the potty, put him on it at a time you think he will urinate or have a bowel movement.  If he is willing to "pee" or "poop", great! If not, please do not force the issue.  Practice this occasionally (not necessarily every day) until you feel you are both ready to have him wear training pants.  Occasionally, during this early toilet learning stage, you may want to let your child try on some cloth underpants, but try to not make it a frequent treat.  We want the underwear to be a sign that we know they are ready to use the toilet 100% of the time, not just a toy.

When everyone is ready, your child should be wearing underwear twenty-four hours a day. This tells her that we really believe she is ready.  Additionally, this will help her become more aware of when she needs to urinate because wet underpants definitely feel wet while disposable diapers are designed to keep the child from feeling wet. Switching from underwear to diapers can give her mixed signals about what is expected. Some children will simply wait until they are wearing a diaper before having a bowel movement while others just seem more confused--"Am I a big kid or a baby?"  At night, you can put two pairs of training pants on her or use bedwetting pants.


            -Choose a weekend (a three day weekend is even better) to start this process and stay at home all weekend to allow your child to get use to wearing underwear and using the potty regularly.

            -Follow your regular routine and do not make too much of a fuss about the change to underwear. 

            -Let your child take it from here!  She will learn much quicker if you let her decide herself when to go.  If you feel you need to remind her, It works best to tell the child, 'It's time to use the potty.' rather than asking, 'Do you want to go potty?'  They almost always say 'no' when asked.  After this weekend at home with no distractions, there will be times when you need to go in the car.  So just before getting in the car or just before going to bed are the only times you should need to tell your child to go to the bathroom (unless she has gone in the past 30 min. or so).  If you get in the habit of asking her to go every 30 min. (or 1 hr), this might make it hard for the child to learn when she really needs to go.  And it may cause the child to rebel and refuse to go on the toilet.

            -Be calm about accidents.  Point out that she is wet or has "poop" in her pants and help change her clothes.  Ask her to tell you next time she has to "pee" or "poop."  It takes time to get use to wearing underwear and to being responsible for getting to the potty in time.  Sometimes a child may have many accidents in a row or have an accident right after sitting on the potty.  She may be nervous or excited and does not have complete control yet.  The calmer we can be, the calmer she will be.

            -Be happy about successes but do not overdo it.  Your child should be proud of herself.  She should not feel she is performing for you.

            -Once you have spent at least 2 days at home with your child in training pants or regular underwear (not pull-ups, not training pants with rubber pants on top), and you have had some success (she has initiated going on her own some and has stayed dry for some time) then she can wear them to school.

            -When you bring your child into childcare in training pants, bring many pairs of training pants, pants and socks.  Estimate how many accidents she had at home and bring at least that many sets of extra clothes each day.  Do not send overalls, pants with snaps or zippers, dresses, onesies or other clothing that is difficult to maneuver.

            - Wet and soiled clothes will be sent home in a plastic bag.  We cannot take the time needed to properly wash out soiled underwear and disinfect everything properly, so they will be wrapped tightly and sent home. Some parents prefer to just throw out the extremely messy ones, so please let us know if this is what you want us to do.

            -During this process, we should talk frequently, but not in front of the children.  We can set up a time to talk on the phone, write notes, or make other arrangements.

We recommend Joanna Cole's book entitled Parents(TM) Book of Toilet Teaching for further reading. You may also want to find a book on using the toilet for your child.  There are many available.  Read them before you buy one to see if you like it.  Will you want to read it repeatedly?  Do you agree with the way it explains and depicts the toilet learning process?

RAMPP’s views on Pull-ups:  We realize that the use of pull-ups for potty training is common these days and we certainly won't tell you not to use them.  But we have found that for many children, the use of pull-ups prolongs the process (or perhaps the parents start using the pull-ups before the child is ready.)  We prefer to not have pull-ups at school.