Not sure when to stop with the diapers and start the potty training? Look out for these toilet-ready tip-offs.


A few nights ago, Jennifer Wong, 32, got a pleasant surprise while showering her almost 2.5 year old son, Jason. Her little man, who has yet to be introduced to a potty, asked mid-shower if he could “wee wee” in the toilet bowl.

Dumbfounded since she wasn’t expecting it, Wong agreed and watched him lift the toilet seat by himself, edge closer to the rim of the toilet bowl with his penis out, and strain to try to urinate. When nothing happened after a few seconds, he decided he was all done, pressed the flush button, and went to the sink to wash his hands.

“My hubby and I were going to wait a few more months before introducing Jason to a potty, so we didn’t see this coming,” says Wong. “He obviously picked it up from school, so I guess it’s time to encourage him.”

Being able to retire the diapers is a major milestone in a child’s life. But there isn’t an ideal time frame to know when to start nurturing this skill. Some kids do it as early as before their second birthday, while others are still in diapers at the age of 4.

Just like with all other developmental milestones, allow your child to set the pace. If your tot is not ready to take the “throne”, even the best toilet tactics will fail. So, wait until you start seeing these signals, before you nudge him towards the potty.

SIGN #1: Removing his own diapers

He may initially start doing it for fun just to see that freaked out look on your face (priceless by the way), but soon he will be insistent on taking off his diaper because it’s too full or dirty. Praise him for understanding that dirty diapers are uncomfortable and for communicating with you that he has done a “poo poo”. You can even shake the poop into the toilet or potty, so he knows where it’s supposed to go.

SIGN #2: Showing interest when you’re using the toilet

After you become a parent, solo trips to the toilet will become a rare treat. If your munchkin is curious about what you’re doing in there, it might be a good idea to let him accompany you. Children learn new skills by imitating others, so junior is essentially absorbing potty rules while watching you use the toilet, flush and wash your hands. It’s also a good idea to tell him exactly what you’re doing when you’re doing it, so that he learns the right words for each of the actions.

Just like with all other developmental milestones, allow your child to set the pace. If your tot is not ready to take the “throne”, even the best toilet tactics will fail.

SIGN #3: He’s broadcasting his bodily functions

Fart jokes aside, your kewpie might be ready to use the loo if he’s happily announcing his bowel movements to the whole world (“I pooping now!”). Alternatively, some kids could prefer to retreat to a quiet corner, do their business and tell you once they’re done. “Sometimes Alexander will urinate while in the shower and tell me he’s doing so,” says mum Sophie Benjamin. “I praise him for telling me, but also add that ‘wee wees’ have to be done in the toilet.”

SIGN #4: You’re changing fewer wet diapers

Bladder control is also a good indicator that you can soon consider the Spiderman or Frozen-themed underwears. Look out for situations where junior starts staying dry for several hours, or even after a nap. Tots usually master bladder control during naps first before being able to do so overnight. That’s why during potty training, it’s advisable to continue to allow them to use diapers at night even when they’ve mastered the use of underwear during the day.

SIGN #5: Can follow basic directions

Mastering the potty isn’t just about figuring out the mechanics that go behind using it, it’s also being able to understand and follow multi-step commands. You have to get undressed, sit down, wipe, flush and wash hands. Look out for signs that your little one is able to follow other multi-step commands: He takes off his shoes when he enters and house and puts them in the shoe cabinet or packs up his toys after playing with them.

Five more telltale signs that your tot is ready to take the “throne” …


SIGN #6: Able to dress and undress himself

It’s kind of a given that if you can’t undress yourself, you won’t be able to relieve yourself. So, if junior starts wanting to dress himself or remove his clothes before a shower, that’s an encouraging nudge in the right direction. Be patient though mummy and daddy! Toddlers do things at a slower pace, so don’t be in too much of a hurry to jump in and help them. You’re only hindering their progress and motor-skill development. By the way, your house could turn into a nudist colony for a while, so remember to set nudity-approved time limits before ushering junior to the toilet.

SIGN #7: Understanding potty lingo

While we are in no hurry to be on the receiving end of our kids’ potty humour in the distant future, it is important that your young ‘un picks up toilet-related words. If he doesn’t have the right words, it will be hard for him to communicate with you about what’s happening inside his body, or diaper at the moment. Also, you won’t be able to discuss potty tips with him either. While words such as “wee wee” and “poo poo” are a good place to start, it’s wise to eventually upgrade him academically to “urination”, “pooping” or “move my bowels”.

If you’re bypassing the potty and heading straight to the toilet bowl, your kiddo may not like having his legs dangling in the air, in which case he should have a foot stool to support them below.

SIGN #8: He has predictable bowel movements

Whether it’s a poop first thing in the morning, right after lunch or before his evening shower, having a regular rhythm will make it easier for you to let junior go diaper free during those times and encourage him to sit on the potty. This will also increase the likeliness of him succeeding in doing his business in the potty and boosting his confidence.

SIGN #9: He can sit on the potty for a short time

It’s important that your mini-me has developed strong leg muscles to be able to sit on the potty and also get up. Children who have Down Syndrome, Autism or generally a weak core will have low muscle tone and are unable to sit still for long or get up from a sitting position. Also, if you’re bypassing the potty and heading straight to the toilet bowl, your kiddo may not like having his legs dangling in the air, in which case he should have a foot stool to support them.

SIGN #10: Wanting to be more independent

It’s always a joy when your tot finally gets to the “Me me me” or “No, I do it!” stage (cue the eye roll). Never mind that there’s an 80 per cent chance that whatever he wants to do by himself could end disastrously, your peewee is at the stage where he wants to claim his independence. Use it to your advantage, as independence means he wants to be a big kid. And what do big kids stop wearing? Diapers!

Photos: iStock

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