Signs Child Care Providers May Notice that Indicate Toilet Learning Readiness

Child Care September 17, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Toddler with red shirt

Learning to use the toilet is an important milestone for young children. Child care providers and parents need to work together to decide when a toddler is ready to learn how to use the toilet. Here are some things child care providers should keep in mind as toddlers approach this important milestone:

  • Toilet learning is a process. Many parents and child care providers get impatient for the child to give up diapers and use the toilet. Be patient — learning to use the toilet happens differently for each child. No two children are ready at the same age.
  • Learning to use the toilet is easiest when children are physically and emotionally ready. This usually happens between the ages of 2 and 3 years. Girls usually gain physical control over their bowel and bladder muscles before boys do. On the average, most girls are potty-trained by age 2½, and most boys around the age of 3. Don't be alarmed if a child doesn’t follow this pattern closely. Individual children mature physically at different rates. Some children are not good at using the toilet until well after their third birthday.
  • The secret to toileting success is patience and timing. Emotional readiness is important. Many bright, normal, and healthy 3-year-olds may not be interested in learning to use the toilet. Learning new things is a full-time job for most toddlers. Toilet learning may not be as important as learning to climb, jump, run, and talk. A toddler who resists toilet learning now may be ready in three to six months and then often learns almost overnight.
  • Share information with the parents. Decide together if their child is ready to begin toilet learning. It is important not to push children before they are ready. Work with parents to make the process consistent with what is happening at home. Reassure parents who are getting frustrated because they think their child is not learning quickly enough.

Signs of Toilet Learning Readiness

When you and parents are trying to decide whether a toddler is ready to begin the toilet learning process, pay attention to the following signs. Children may be ready if they:

  • Show interest in using the toilet
  • Can walk, sit down, and stand up independently
  • Stay dry for at least two hours at a time while awake
  • Wake up with a dry diaper after a nap
  • Can follow simple instructions
  • Can use basic words to tell you when they need to use the toilet

Helping children learn to use the toilet is an important developmental milestone that requires cooperation and consistency from parents and child care providers. Talk with parents, and develop a plan to guide their child through this important process.

For More Information 

For more information about toilet learning, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles: 

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.