Some time before children are 4, they will be ready to try to use the potty or toilet. Whānau can watch for the signs when children are ready and give them patient encouragement.

Waiting for signs they're ready

Between 18 months and 4 years of age, most children show they’re ready to start using the potty or toilet. Learning this skill can be most successful when whānau wait for their child to show some signs they’re ready.

Several resources provide information on learning to use the toilet, including tips to help parents.

Choose the resource that best suits the whānau. Two options to explore and talk about are:

  • the Whakatipu booklet Te Kōhuri 3 — Wharepaku time on page 11 and the Practice makes progress cartoon on pages 12–13
  • the resource: The tricky bits, pages 14–17.

Ask the whānau:

  • What have you been thinking about in terms of your child learning to use the potty or toilet?
  • Is there anything in this information that you’ve noticed with your little one?

Take the parent’s lead as to where to move the conversation next, depending on what they may or may not have tried or thought about.

Signs they're ready

Look at these signs of readiness with the whānau:

  • Are their nappies sometimes dry when you go to change them? If they are, that’s a sign your child can ‘hold on’.
  • Are they interested in watching others go to the toilet? If they are, this can be helpful for learning about using the toilet themselves.
  • Are they interested in talking about going to the toilet?
  • Are they letting you know when they have wet or dirty nappies?

If parents have started to help their child use the potty or toilet, ask how it’s going.

  • What tips would you give to other parents?

Gentle encouragement

Here are some ideas that can help a child learn to use a potty or toilet:

  • Warmer weather can be a good time to start. If they’re outside without a nappy on and they feel like going, they get to see what happens when they do!
  • Dress them in clothes that are easy to take off and on like trousers with elastic waists.
  • If you intend to use a potty, introduce it by letting toys have a go first.
  • Let them sit on the potty or toilet with or without clothes. This is about them getting used to it without any pressure.
  • Some children respond to using the potty if they sit on it while the bath is running – the sound of water can help them wee.
  • Praise them for trying, as well as for succeeding.
  • Sharing picture books about young children learning to use the potty or toilet can be helpful too.

Here is some advice that might help whānau.

  • Start when family life feels settled.
  • Look for some signs of readiness.
  • A regular potty time might help, maybe before or after meals.
  • Try not to make it too much of a big deal.
  • If what you’re trying isn’t working, stop and try again in a couple of weeks.
  • Mastering toileting varies from one child to another and can take from days to weeks to months.
  • Expect accidents!
  • Avoid anger and shaming them for the accidents.
  • Often ‘wees’ will be sorted before ‘poos’.
  • Days will be dry before nights – a child can be in undies all day but still need a nappy at night.

Helpful resources for whānau