Once your child has stopped using nappies in the daytime, it’s time to think about nap times.
Learning to sleep without a nappy on at naptime and use the potty when they wake up, will help prepare your child for being dry at night.
Tips for managing nappy-free nap times:
- Just before nap time, help your child use the potty or toilet, so they are more likely to stay dry.
- When you notice the nappy is staying dry at least some of the time, stop using a nappy at nap time.
- Accidents are common during the first few months. Use a waterproof sheet or similar underneath your child, to protect their sleep area.
- Lots of children need to use the potty when they wake so help them to do this.
Using praise and rewards to motivate your child
Research shows that rewards such as sweets or sticker charts may help your child initially, but they can stop working quickly.
For most children, encouraging and supporting them to be as independent as possible is the best way to motivate them.
Tips for keeping your child motivated:
- Give your child plenty of encouragement and praise their efforts. When your child uses the potty or manages to stay dry, even if it's just for a short time, tell them how pleased you are.
- Try to stay calm when accidents happen and do not make a big fuss.
- Give your child the opportunity to do things for themselves as far as possible. This will help them to feel in control, positive and relaxed about the process.
- Use favourite toys, books or songs to help them feel comfortable on the potty.
- Try to avoid prompting or asking your child too often. Instead, wait until you think they need to go and then direct them gently, e.g. “it’s toilet time” or “let’s get that wee/poo in the potty!”
- Be clear, confident and consistent so your child knows what you are asking them to do.
Managing potty training accidents
It is normal to have lots of accidents at the beginning and they are an important part of the learning process. This is a big step for your child, so be patient and encourage them.
Tips for managing accidents:
- When your child has an accident, clean it up together and remind them to use the potty next time.
- Do not shame or punish your child about accidents, as stress and upset can make it harder for you and your child to learn together.
- It’s important not to pretend an accident hasn’t happened. Help them get clean and dry as soon as possible and involve your child in this process. Gently explain that you want them to use the potty next time.
Potty training out and about
When you first stop using nappies, choose a time when you can stay home with your child for a few days, so you can do some one to one learning with them.
Tips to make your first trips out easier to manage:
- Don’t forget your potty and spares of everything just in case!
- Make trips out short to begin with.
- Dress your child in clothes that are easy for them to push down and pull up again.
- Avoid putting your child back in a pull up or nappy for outings. This will confuse them and undo all that learning.
- A travel potty and washable car seat cover can come in handy.
- Using the toilet away from home is a good thing for your child to get used to. Talk to them about things like how the flush at the supermarket is different from the one at home or nursery for example.
We have an excellent range of products to help with this stage including portable potties and car seat covers.
Potty training at nursery & pre-school
Many children spend part of their day being looked after by someone other than you and away from home.
For potty training to go well, your child needs a consistent approach to help them learn what they need to do whether they're at home or in childcare.
- As soon as your child starts attending the setting, communicate about their bladder and bowel health. Ask the staff to tell you about the child’s poos, so you can keep track and avoid constipation.
- Find out what they are offered to drink to you can supplement appropriately at the beginning and end of the session. If the setting will only offer water, and your child is reluctant to consume enough water, talk to staff. Offer to supply juice or squash for them to dilute; it is vital for your child to stay well hydrated when they are away from home.
- Start conversations about potty practice as soon as your child can sit up. Settings may regard potty training as something to attempt when the child is older; share this information so they too can see the benefits of potty practice.
- When you are thinking about stopping using nappies, plan with the staff. Agree dates together with your child’s caregivers so everyone is ready to support them. Time what you are doing at home to fit in with the setting.
- Avoid starting to wear pants when the child is about to change rooms at nursery – that will be a big enough upheaval for them.
- Tell the staff about the language you use at home for wee and poo.
- Talk to the staff at the beginning and end of each session so everyone knows how things are going both at the setting and back at home. Use our potty training record so staff can keep track of their progress.
More information and free resources for childcare settings to support potty learning.
Getting dry at night
The age at which children become dry at night varies hugely. For some, it follows on quite quickly after achieving daytime dryness. For others, the wetting carries on after the age of 5 and treatment will be advised.
It is not your child’s fault if they wet during sleep.
There are however lots of things you can do to gradually work towards night time dryness including:
- Help your child get into the habit of using the potty or toilet at bedtime.
- As well as making sure they are drinking plenty during the daytime, work on a good bedtime drinking routine as well. STOP drinks one hour before bedtime, every night, and no more after that till morning. Our Wee Checker has information on how much children should drink for their age.
- Prepare your child for sleep. Unwind with a book or listen to music with the lights turned low. NO screens – so no TV, iPad, computer games in the hour before sleep, or the brain will get the wrong message!
- Avoid lifting – in other words waking your child to take them to the toilet – if you want to work on stopping bedwetting. It might keep the bed dry, but it encourages the child to wee during sleep as they don’t really wake up.
If your child is still wetting the bed when they are 5, see our Advice for Children with Night Time Wetting factsheet for more information and help.
Common potty training problems
Taking your time leading your child through the preparation and practice stages should help to avoid the most common potty training problems.
If you feel as though it's all gone wrong and they're just not getting it, it's ok to stop, go back to the preparation stage and start again.
Could they be constipated?
Constipation affects 1 in 3 children and is especially common in under 5s. Your child may be struggling because they have some underlying constipation that was there before you started potty training.
So stop, treat the constipation and then try stopping the nappies again once it is all under control. Carry on with potty practice – this in itself is an important part of constipation treatment.
Are they drinking enough?
Sometime the bladder misbehaves and we realise that our child is simply not drinking enough.
Once again, you don’t have to go right back to the beginning, but go back to the potty practice stage while you increase your child’s fluid intake.
Try not to panic if it seems as if they just aren't getting it. Some children take longer to learn, and just need more time.
Reassure your child that their wees and poos will learn to go in the potty, they just need more practice!
Get more information and help with common potty training problems.