Developmental milestone: Toilet training
Toilet training: What to expect when
No magic age signals the ideal time to start the process of toilet training. Some children develop the necessary physical and cognitive skills as early as 18 to 24 months, whereas others aren’t ready until they’re 3 or 4 (boys are often slightly later than girls). Some children get the knack in a few short days, while it can take others a year or more.
What accounts for the wide age range in mastering this skill? Timing. Pediatricians have a saying about toilet training: If you start at 2 you’ll be done by 3; if you start at 3 you’ll be done by 3. “If you catch them when they’re ready, it may only take a month,” says Denise Aloisio, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician in Rochester, New York. “But if you miss the signals or don’t wait for their cues, it can take six months or more.”
Signs of readiness
Your child must be physically ready to start potty training before you have any chance of success, meaning he can hold urine and stay dry for three hours or more (this indicates that his bladder muscles are sufficiently developed to store urine). He also needs to be able to recognize the physical signs that signal when he has to go, and act on them before anything comes out (no small feat when you’ve never had to think about this before). It makes it easier, too, if he can pull his clothes up and down by himself. Steer clear of overalls if he can’t undo the clasps.
Physical and mental readiness aren’t the only factors involved. Motivation is key. If your child demonstrates a desire for independence and shows an interest in imitating others’ bathroom habits, it may be an auspicious time to plunge into the process. Children may figure out how to have a bowel movement before they learn to urinate in the potty because they typically only have BMs once or twice a day, usually at the same time.