Potty readiness 101

Q: What are the signs that a child is ready for toilet training? My twin boys — age 2 1/2 — don’t seem interested at all!

There’s a wide age range — 18 months to 4 years! — for when most children are ready for toilet training. Physical readiness, behavioral readiness and personality can all play a role as well as the mindset of the caregivers involved.  

Some of the physical signs that children who are ready to begin toilet training display include awakening from a long nap (two hours) with a dry diaper, thus demonstrating bladder capacity to hold urine; ability to take their pants and underwear down in order to use the toilet; ability to position themselves appropriately on a toilet; and/or mobilization to their “favorite spot” in the house to have a bowel movement in their diaper. 

Signs of behavioral readiness include children who are very interested in what grownups are doing when using the toilet, including wanting to explore how toilets work (flushing and watching toilet paper vanish). They may also appear to be motivated by a positive reward system or the incentive of a new item, such as underwear. 

Personality also plays a role. Some children are fierce with their independence and proud of their accomplishments, while other kids are happy to have grownups do everything for them. Some kids are more swiftly swayed by following what other kids are doing during bathroom activities, and others aren’t motivated by group behavior. 

Of course, the personality of parents can also play a part. Some parents want more perfection associated with toilet training, and other parents worry less about accidents of urine or stool. Both types of personalities are easy for kids to perceive. 

All of these factors play a role in determining when children are ready. 

Success will come more easily when the physical, behavioral and personality factors are all considered and the child feels like he or she isn’t being forced into potty training. 


 Dr. Gigi Chawla is a board-certified pediatrician and the senior medical director of primary care at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Send your questions to gchawla@mnparent.com.