Potty Training Readiness: Signs Your Child is Ready

Potty Training Readiness

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably wondered when it’s the right time to start potty training your toddler. Knowing when your child is truly ready for potty training can save you a lot of frustration and accidents. There are several signs that indicate your tot is prepared to say goodbye to diapers.

Physical Readiness Signs

Bladder Control One of the clearest signs your child is ready to potty train is that they recognize when they need to urinate and can control their bladder and bowels for short periods of time. Typically, children don’t gain full bladder control until around age 3 or 4.

But if your toddler is staying dry for an hour or two at a time, can stop what they’re doing when they feel the urge to pee, or tells you that their diaper is wet or soiled, it’s a good indication they’re ready to ditch the diapers.

Bowel Movement Regularity

In addition to urinary control, look for signs your child is developing a regular bowel movement routine. Do they poop at about the same time every day?

Having a predictable poop schedule makes it easier for you to get them to the potty. Keep in mind that it’s normal for toddlers to poop as much as 3 times a day or as little as 3 times a week. The timing isn’t as important as the fact that they’re getting into a reliable rhythm.

Physical Coordination The physical act of using the toilet requires balance and coordination. Make sure your toddler can walk, sit down, rise to a standing position, pull pants up and down, and get on and off the potty independently. These motor skills typically emerge between ages 2 and 3. Boys may need to work on pointing their penis down toward the bowl.

mother potty training son

Cognitive and Emotional Readiness Signs

1. Interest in the Potty

Many newly potty-trained kids get very curious about the mechanics of peeing and pooping. Does your toddler follow you into the bathroom?

Do they ask questions about what that big, porcelain bowl is for? Have they practiced sitting on the potty (fully dressed), or do they enjoy reading books and watching videos about using the toilet? These behaviors indicate your little one is aware of what the potty’s purpose is.

2. Ability to Recognize Urges

In addition to demonstrating interest, children who are cognitively ready for toilet training are able to recognize the sensations that mean they need to go and verbalize them to you BEFORE it happens.

Watch for physical signals like holding themselves, squatting, or grunting, and take them to pee or poop even if you don’t ask. Respond right away to statements like “Pee pee now!” so they learn to identify the feeling.

3. Understanding Language

Kids must be able to comprehend simple instructions before they can be potty trained. By age 2, they should be able to follow two- or three-step directions like, “Pull down your pants and sit on the potty.” Respond appropriately when you give them reminders about using the toilet or ask if they need to go.

4. Desire for Independence

The process of using the potty allows toddlers to take care of a basic need on their own, which boosts self-confidence. Look for signs your child wants more autonomy, such as insisting on feeding themselves or dressing themselves. Are they starting to declare “I do it!” more often? This need for independence often coincides with potty training readiness.

5. Frustration With Diapers

Some kids get frustrated when their freedom of movement is restricted by a wet or dirty diaper. They may try to remove their diaper or pull at their clothes for easier access when they pee or poop. Or they might ask you for a diaper change as soon as they go in order to get cleaned up quickly. This shows they’re uncomfortable and ready for underwear.

father helping daughter with potty training

How to Know FOR SURE If Your Child is Ready

While the signs above can clue you in that your toddler might be ready to toilet train, experts agree there’s one very clear way to know if the time is right. Have them sit on the potty – while clothed – for 3-5 minutes at a time 3 or more times per day. If they can successfully do this without resistance, have them try sitting bare-bottomed.

If your tot can sit for a few minutes with no complaints and relax long enough to pass some pee or poop into the toilet, you can feel confident they have both the physical control and the cognitive awareness needed to understand the potty’s purpose. Of course accidents will still happen, but this indicates your kiddo is prepared to learn.

What if Signs of Readiness Seem Inconsistent?

It’s normal for young children to show interest or capability one day but total disinterest or inability the next. Potty training involves both physiological development (growing control of the bowel and bladder) as well as learned skills best tackled when kids are motivated and focused.

If your child’s potty skills seem to come and go, don’t sweat it. Keep the potty accessible so they can practice sitting when the urge strikes, but wait until the signs of readiness are consistently present before you fully commit to underwear. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to lay the foundation for when they’re really ready:

Potty Training Readiness Activities

There are lots of things you can do with your toddler to get them excited about using the potty and give them the confidence they’ll need when toilet training officially begins:

  • Read books and watch videos about using the potty. Daniel Tiger and Once Upon a Potty are favorites.
  • Have special toys or books they can only play with while sitting on the potty. This helps them look forward to it.
  • Use a sticker chart to motivate and praise each time they at least try to go.
  • Consider buying a small training potty that’s just their size. Adapting to an adult-sized toilet can be tough.
  • Encourage practice by having scheduled potty breaks before/after naps and meals.
  • Allow them be present when older siblings use the bathroom so they learn toilet skills from example.
  • Never punish potty training accidents. Stay positive by calmly changing wet clothes without anger or shame.

The Bottom Line

Pay close attention and you’ll get a good sense of when your unique child is truly ready to say bye-bye to diapers. Committing to potty training too early usually backfires, so make sure most of the signs are there. Mastering bladder and bowel control is a huge accomplishment that kids are eager and proud to achieve with encouragement, patience and praise.