Potty training

At a glance

  • Children need to complete a certain amount of development before they can start getting by without diapers.
  • The rate at which children develop varies widely from child to child, and there isn’t anything that parents can do to speed up the process.
  • Once a child is physically ready, parents can help them get used to using a potty or toilet.
  • A good time to start trying is when the child is about two years of age.

An individual process

Photo of little boy sitting on the potty

Before you know it, tiny babies turn into toddlers that can walk and talk a little. Parents often then wonder whether it's time to start getting their child used to using a potty or toilet (potty training).

After birth, children begin a long process of development. The brain continues to mature and learns to control more and more body functions, including bladder and bowel movements. Although this comes naturally to older children, the process is complex, involving various , muscles and the nervous system.

The speed at which children develop varies greatly. Bladder and bowel control is just like any other part of child development. For example, some children already start walking at ten months, while others start at 18 months or later. Studies have shown that most children start using the potty between the ages of two and three years. While some children already learn to use it by the age of two, others only learn when they are four years old.

Do not start too early

Children under the age of 18 months are often simply not physically capable of using a potty. Trying to get children used to using the potty or toilet earlier may mean that it takes longer to see results. That's often frustrating and tedious, both for parents and children.

On the other hand, children who are much older than two years may find it harder to change their habits. Here, too, it might then take a while for the child to learn.

So around the time a child turns two is a good time to start trying to get used to using the potty or toilet. Many children show an interest in what a toilet is for around this age. If parents notice that their child isn’t ready, they can simply wait a few weeks and then try again.

But regardless of the child's age, it's never a good idea to put pressure on them. Doing so can delay the process and even lead to problems like constipation during potty training.

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Joinson C, Heron J, Von Gontard A et al. A prospective study of age at initiation of toilet training and subsequent daytime bladder control in school-age children. J Dev Behav Pediatr 2009; 30(5): 385-393.

Kaerts N, Van Hal G, Vermandel A et al. Readiness signs used to define the proper moment to start toilet training: a review of the literature. Neurourol Urodyn 2012; 31(4): 437-440.

Klassen TP, Kiddoo D, Lang ME et al. The effectiveness of different methods of toilet training for bowel and bladder control. Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep) 2006; (147): 1-57.

Van der Cruyssen K, De Wachter S, Van Hal G et al. The voiding pattern in healthy pre- and term infants and toddlers: a literature review. Eur J Pediatr 2015; 174(9): 1129-1142.

Vermandel A, Van Kampen M, Van Gorp C et al. How to toilet train healthy children? A review of the literature. Neurourol Urodyn 2008; 27(3): 162-166.

Warzak WJ, Forcino SS, Sanberg SA et al. Advancing Continence in Typically Developing Children: Adapting the Procedures of Foxx and Azrin for Primary Care. J Dev Behav Pediatr 2016; 37(1): 83-87.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. informedhealth.org can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Updated on January 2, 2023

Next planned update: 2025


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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