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Don't Rush into Potty Training! How to Tell If Your Toddler Is Actually Ready

Photograph by Twenty20

My 21-month-old daughter, Alyssa, is obsessed right now with all things "potty." She barges in on me every time I go (especially now that she can reach the door handle!) and wants to know what I’m up to. She adores pulling out toilet paper from the dispenser and putting it in the toilet to flush away. She even puts her dolls and toys on her training toilet when they have to go.

Of course, I’m thinking, "That means she’s ready to potty train, right?" However, after a little research, I found that potty training is not something you want to rush into, no matter how desperate you are to stop changing diapers. Your child needs to be ready on several different levels before successful training is possible.


Obviously, age plays a very important part in toilet training. Toddlers are typically ready between the ages of 18 to 24 months, but many parents wait until their little one is a bit older, between 2 ½ to 3 years old. Some kids may not be ready until 4. It’s vital not to rush the process, or your child may regress.

RELATED: Real Moms Share Hilarious Potty Training Stories

Changes in Diaper Interaction

As your toddler is nearing potty training readiness, you may notice your little one interacting differently with diapers. For example, kiddos ready for training seem uncomfortable in a dirty diaper. They may pull at it or even take it off by themselves! Pay attention to diaper status during changes. Kiddos ready for training can be dry for long periods of time in between changes, and a sure sign is dryness after a nap. Data is your best friend—start charting how long your child seems to be "holding it" and if he or she has a specific "time" to go No. 1 or No. 2 throughout the day. This will be invaluable information for when you decide to take the plunge!

Playing Potty

In this particular category, my daughter is a pro. If your toddler is nearing readiness, you’ll see an uptick in interest in all things potty-related. Children will mimic potty behavior they observe and may recreate bathroom situations with their toys. They also have a bathroom vocabulary. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but a child should be able to identify words like potty, pee and poop. Being able to communicate training expectations to children is a big piece of the toilet training puzzle, and it’s vital that kids have mastered the words they need to understand what it is you want them to do. Furthermore, as much as it might gross you out, toddlers approaching training readiness may be interested in seeing their own or others’ urine or feces. Let them see if they’re interested, and show them how to flush it down. It’s all part of understanding the process!

Basic Developmental Milestones

It turns out that there are some mental and physical prerequisites to potty training that seem to have nothing to do with bathroom activity. However, it makes total sense that a toddler should have the motor skills needed to pull her pants up and down before tackling toilet training. Here are some basics kids should master before you attempt to train. Training-ready toddlers should be able to:

- Walk or run steadily, and keep balanced

- Sit quietly for 2 to 5 minutes

- Can pull pants up and down

- Expresses a desire for independence (“I can do it myself!”).

- Cooperate with what their caregiver wants them to do

- Follow a series of simple directions (“Take your toy to the living room and put it in the toy box”).

RELATED: Mom.me’s Ultimate Potty Training Guide

Follow Your Instincts

Chances are, as your child’s caregiver, you’re going to have a "sense" of when they’re ready to train. Use these suggestions as a guide, but in the end, you have to decide what you think your child is ready for. Now, the question is, are YOU ready?

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