Is toileting a developmental milestone?


As a new parent, you may be concerned about whether your child is meeting their milestones, especially in the first five years of their lives. This is something that is constantly on the minds of new parents. Toilet training can be a stressful process for many parents but knowing whether or not your child is meeting their developmental milestones for toileting can make it more manageable.

Although toileting milestones can vary between children, there are general age ranges that certain skills should be developed by. For example, tells you they need to go to the toilet by 2 years old, or can toilet independently at 5 years old. If your child is not yet toilet trained in the day by 4 years old, you may want to discuss this with your local doctor or Occupational Therapist.

Remembering that each child may start their toilet training at different ages, we will talk about some general age ranges of toilet training and some tips to help your child learn to use the toilet independently.

General ages for toileting skill development

Although each child may learn toileting skills at different stages, here are some general ages for each skill development.

  • 1.5 years – Child may indicate discomfort from wetness in their nappies
  • 2 years – Tells you they need to go to the toilet
  • 3 years – Able to use the toilet in the day with a few accidents
  • 4 years – Stays dry at night with almost no accidents
  • 5 years – Can toilet independently
  • 6 years – Stays dry at night-time. *About 15% of children aged 7 still experience regular night-time incontinence.[1]


What is a developmental milestone?

A developmental milestone is an age when most children can do a certain task. For example when a child learns to walk or talk.

However, unlike walking and talking, there is no specific age for a child to meet their toileting developmental milestone. Each child will learn to use the toilet at different ages and when they are ready. You should not worry if your child is taking longer than other children. The most important first step is to recognise when your child is ready for toilet training.

How do you know if your child is ready for toilet training?

Before you start toilet training, it is important for you to recognise the signs that your child is ready to be toilet trained.

Signs that your child is ready for toilet training include:

  • Your child can keep a nappy dry for up to 2 hours
  • Can sit for short periods of time
  • They are showing signs of discomfort when they have had an accident
  • Your child is interested in other people going to the toilet and may be imitating other people’s bathroom habits

What if my child is not showing signs that they are ready?

Although your child may not be showing signs that they are ready for toilet training, you can still help them develop these underlying skills. Here are some tips to help them become ready for toileting.

Encourage them to accompany you to the toilet

Although this might sound weird, getting your child to go to the toilet with you can help them develop toileting skills. By being with you in the toilet, they become aware of the toileting process, including pulling pants down, sitting on the toilet, flushing the toilet and washing hands.

It also allows them to become familiar with the environment. The more familiar they are with the environment, the less scary it is when they need to start going there more often. For example, it allows them to be more familiar with the noises e.g. flushing the toilet.

Practice sitting in one spot for a certain amount of time

Sitting on the toilet, especially for a bowel motion, requires being able to sit for a certain amount of time. Think about a toy or activity that your child enjoys and see how long they can do that activity for, while seated.

Practice sitting on a chair as opposed to sitting on the floor helps with balancing. Therefore, it simulates sitting on the toilet.

Practice undressing

Get your child to practice pulling down their nappies and pants when getting changed. When they start toileting, they will need to know how to take off the clothing.

Do some pretend play

Do pretend play where their doll or favourite character sit on a potty or go to the toilet. This can help them practice the toileting process. You can also put clothes on their doll or favourite character so they have more opportunities to practice dressing and undressing.

We hope this article has been helpful for parents who are wondering if their child is ready to toilet train. It’s important to remember that there are many other developmental milestones before toileting, so don’t be alarmed if your child isn’t showing signs of readiness yet! If you have any questions or concerns about the process of potty training, feel free to contact us and we can point you in the right direction. We’re here to help!

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