Learning to Use the Toilet

Learning to use the toilet is a big step for your child. It is easier if you start when your child is ready. Children must be able to control their bladders and bowels and remove their clothing. They need to understand what you expect. And they must want to use the toilet. Forcing children before they are ready can be harmful to children and frustrating for parents.

Some children learn to use the toilet easily, but for others it is harder. It may take 3 to 6 months before your child learns. Be patient. Remember, over time your child will have fewer and fewer accidents.

Look for Signs That Your Child Is Ready

Look for Signs That Your Child Is Ready

  • His bowel movements are regular.
  • His diapers are dry for at least 2 hours or dry after naps.
  • His face or posture shows when he is ready to urinate or have a bowel movement.
  • He fusses or asks to be changed when his diaper is wet or soiled
  • He can walk to the bath-room, help undress himself and follow simple directions.
  • He asks to use the potty or wear “big kid” underwear.

Help Your Child
Learn to Use the Toilet

Encourage your child, but don’t force her. Make sure she understands what you want her to do.
It’s helpful for mothers or sisters to show little girls, and fathers or brothers to show little boys. Show that urine and stool go in the toilet. Don’t call them “dirty” or “bad.” Don’t make your child feel shame about going to the bathroom.

Let your child sit on the potty with her clothes on a few times. Then encourage her to sit on the potty with her pants or diaper off. For boys, you can start them urinating sitting on the potty or standing up.

Also teach children to throw toilet paper in the toilet, flush the toilet, and wash and dry their hands. Teach girls to wipe from front to back to prevent infections.

Things You Can Do

Where to Find Help

Learn More

Ann Has a New Potty Chair

  • Ann Has a New Potty Chair
    Some children are afraid they will fall in the toilet. They feel safer on a low potty chair with their feet on the floor. You can also use a toilet seat adapter and a step stool.

Have Your Child Sit on the Potty Every 2 to 3 Hours

    • Try at the same times each day so it becomes routine.
    • Try after breakfast and other meals, and after drinking. Try before and after naps, before bath time and at bedtime.
    • Try when he shows signs that he needs to urinate or have a bowel movement.
    • Let him sit for several minutes. Talk or read a potty book.
    • Let him get up when he’s ready.
    • Don’t expect him to use the toilet right away and don’t show disappointment when he does not. But when he does, reward him with praise and hugs.