Toilet training: few terms provoke as many questions when it comes to raising toddlers. When do I start? How will I know? How early is too early and how late is too late?

How old will my toddler be when they start toilet training?

With so many changes taking place during the toddler years, every child reaches their developmental milestones at a different age. As a general guide though, most toddlers start toilet training around 2 years of age, although some might start as early as 18 months.

Traditionally, parents have decided when their child starts toilet training. Although children can't learn how to use a toilet without the assistance of their parents, it's thought that using certain signs of readiness given by your child might be a better approach to deciding when to start.

What signs do I look out for to start toilet training?

The key to understanding the signs is to conceptualise them as part of a developmental puzzle; not all of the pieces need to be in place for you to get the general picture. Likewise though, some of those pieces, or developmental stages, rely on the presence of others to go into place.

Using the above analogy, and reading the following list, you'll understand why some of these signs might indicate your child is ready to start toilet training.

The signs

Your toddler might be ready to start toilet training if they:
  • Start to copy your behaviour, taking greater interest in what you're doing and why you're doing it
  • Can follow instructions, especially regarding objects and their place
  • Can pull their pants down unassisted (you might notice toddlers enjoy removing articles of clothing) but can also pull them back up
  • Have more than 2 hours of dry nappies each day. This shows that your toddler is learning bladder control, rather than weeing automatically whenever their bladder gets full
  • Know the words for wee and poo
  • Tell you when they have done a wee or a poo, or tell you when they need to do one of either
  • Want to be changed because of a soiled nappy, or try to take it off themselves
  • Are producing firmer stools
  • Are generally becoming more curious and independent
  • Show an interest in what people are doing when they go to the toilet. Although this can be awkward for an adult or older child, from your toddler's perspective going to the toilet is part of the membership to the adult world