Potty training isn’t something children will do by themselves; it has to be taught, like brushing teeth and preparing for potty training is an important first stage.  Invest in a couple of potties (they don’t need to have bells and whistles!), so that there is one to hand both upstairs and downstairs.  Also buy a multipack or two of cheap pants/knickers – the washing machine will become your new BFF and you may well find yourself consigning a few pairs to the dustbin!

Even if your child isn’t showing all the signs that he or she is ready, you can start preparation from around 18 months. There are a number of ways to do this, including starting to change the nappy in the bathroom as this is where grown-ups go, and saying when a nappy is wet and when it is dry to help them learn.

Taking the potty plunge!

Your child is showing all the signs of being ready for potty training and you’ve decided to go for it… Make sure you’ve chosen a time when you can be around the house and dedicated to keeping an eye on things.  Once you’ve taken the nappy off, don’t be tempted to put it back on during the day.  It can confuse children when they are just starting out, and it can also make them believe that they have a choice.

Accidents are part of the potty training learning curve

Little accidents are to be expected and mustn’t be seen by you or your child as a sign of failure. They are a key part of learning, particularly as nappies today are so advanced that children may not have felt the difference between wet and dry in their nappy. In fact, young children can only feel that they need the toilet when their bladder is about ¾ full, and so accidents are likely to be large and there will be less time to react. Children get better at predicting and holding on as their bladder and their brains connect and mature.

Although potty training can be stressful, it’s important to try not to get frustrated. If the child doesn’t appear to be succeeding, focus praise on effort in trying – and the parts of potty training that are going well, such as washing hands. A good tip is to aim any frustration at the naughty wee or poo, and get the child to join in. Instant rewards that are small and inexpensive, like stickers, are a great incentive.

After a few weeks, once your child is starting to get to grips with using the potty, it’s easy to become a little more complacent or to try to get out and do more and at this stage accidents can happen.  Try not to revert to nappies, it’s just a sign that your child is still consolidating this new skill and may still need some help and reassurance. are likely to be making progress but it’s after this time, when life gets back to normal and there are more trips out that parents can start to think things are not working, and be tempted to put the nappy back on.

Keeping the momentum going

There are lots of ways to help with this ‘keeping going’ stage. For example, on first trips out, be prepared – take changes of clothes, a potty in a carrier bag or a portable potty, and make first trips short and achievable. Expect accidents with play dates, or at school. Children are learning an additional skill – to listen to their bodies while they are busy and distracted. Try to keep positive as children can get frustrated and frightened of failure at this stage, especially after doing so well earlier on.

What about night time?

Once children have mastered day time potty training, they are ready to tackle night time potty training and there are simple steps to take to make this more successful, including limiting drinks in the early evening and making sure the potty is by the bed or easily accessible and well lit as some children are frightened to get up go to the toilet at night.

In this video an expert gives tips and advice on when to start potty training your child, how to get started and what to do if you run into problems.