So, you’ve managed to survive the baby years, and your little bundle of joy is, well, not so little any more. In fact, they’re getting more and more independent every day, and as they get better at communicating their needs, you may realise it’s time to tackle toilet training.

The age at which a child is ready to say goodbye to nappies during waking time varies enormously. In fact, recognising the signs that your toddler is ready is part of the art of successful potty training. Beginning when they’re not ready - or waiting too long - could make it a gruelling business for both of you.

We know what a tricky time this can be for parent and child. So, starting with knowing when to begin, we’ve created a list of potty training tips to help you along the way. Good luck!

Ten tips for successful potty training

1. Start when they’re ready. 
Most children are ready to potty train between the ages of 18 months and three years – but many start later. Here are some signs your little one is ready.

  • Your child stays dry for two hours or more
  • They can follow instructions, such as ‘Pick up the toy.’
  • He or she has regular bowel movements
  • You can tell when they need to go to the toilet – ie they strain or pull a face
  • They dislike the sensation of a dirty nappy
  • They tell you when they have wet or soiled their nappy
  • They tell you when they need to go to the toilet

If your child tells you they have a dirty nappy, praise them enthusiastically. Clap, whoop, dance – the bigger the encouragement the better. This will make them more likely to tell you in future and they may begin informing you before the act (even if just to see your reaction!)

2. Take them to the toilet with you
This tip may make you cringe – or give you stage fright - but allowing your child to watch you on the toilet will make them more familiar with the concept of sitting on the toilet or potty – and what you’re doing there. Let them see the results and help you flush. Make sure your toilet is clean and you wash your own and their hands afterwards to get rid of germs and instill good habits.

3. Buy a potty – the earlier the better 
Getting them familiar with their potty will make them that much calmer about sitting on it and relieving themselves when you decide to embark on potty training. Decorate it with stickers, let them sit on it while they watch TV or read a book, show them their teddies using it. The more they get used to it, the better. You can also try emptying the contents of their nappy into it, so they’ll be familiar with the concept before they start.

4. What to do if you decide to go cold turkey
Some parents decide to ditch the nappies totally, as opposed to gradually. For example this might mean they don’t use a pull-up nappy on a car-trip, or when visiting friends. If you decide to take this route, you need to choose a week where you can stay in the house as much as possible. Put them into pants, and ask them regularly if they need the toilet. This is the same if you’re doing it more gradually. Don’t expect them to tell you every time – or at all. Keep putting them on the potty at regular intervals, say every 45 minutes. They will still need a nappy during day-time sleeps and at night.

5. Try the potty at opportune times 
Put your child on the potty as soon as they wake up in the morning, after a day-time nap, 15 minutes after eating or when you note them pulling that telling face. If they are regular when it comes to their ablutions, make a note and stick them on the potty at that time.

6. Sing their praises when they go When they do manage to go on the potty, be unstinting in your praise. Clap, give them a sticker, call up their daddy, mummy, grandpa and tell them what they’ve done. The bigger the celebration, the better. It’ll make them much more likely to go again next time.

7. The art of distraction
Let them watch TV, read books, or play with a favourite toy while on the potty. It’ll keep them on it for longer – hopefully with the desired results!

8. Don’t push it or lose your patience
If they haven’t gone after five minutes, don’t force them to stay longer. You’ve got to keep the whole vibe positive, happy and stress-free. Whatever you do, don’t get cross if they don’t go – or if they have an accident. C’est la vie, is the attitude to take. If you feel like screaming, do and do it quietly in the garden, then return smiling.

9. Let them wear slouch gear
Tracksuit bottoms and slouchy trousers are your best bet when potty training. They’re easy to pull down (in fact the agile child can do it themselves), and they’re easy to whip off in the case of an accident. Now is not the time to worry about style.

10. Make sure it’s a good time for both of you
Don’t start potty training if your child – or you – is unwell. It’s a tiring time - you need to be at your fittest. Also, don’t choose a time of upheaval. Say, for example, you’re moving house, or they’re starting nursery. You need a calm, stress-free environment.

Potty training is an emotional time – often even more so for the parent as they realise their baby isn’t such a baby any more. However, following these tips – and focusing on the joys of being nappy-free - will make your potty-training journey as smooth as possible.