21 Potty Training Readiness Signs

A Compilation of Potty Training Readiness Signs for Children

When should parents start potty training children?

Potty training is one of the more challenging milestones for children and parents alike. Since children are very different from one another, there are few generalizations that can be made across the board for all children. The one question parents always have when it comes to potty training is: what age should I start potty training my child.

   In a recent article on the popular ParentingScience.com website, Dr. Gwen Dewer examined the current research available to determine the ideal age to potty train children. The results were inconclusive, as Dewer determined the few studies regarding the optimum age to toilet train were limited and no definitive age could be established and more studies were required. In general, it was determined that starting earlier than later was likely the best option as the myth of early potty training causing psychological damage to the child and there was no research linking positive or negative psychological health to potty training.

     According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it may take up to a couple of years before your child is completely toilet-trained. The AAP says children may show signs of readiness at 18 months, start training at 24 months, and stay dry during the day by 30 to 36 months. Most children will stay dry at night by the time they are 36 to 48 months old. 

  In her book,  The No-Cry Potty Training Solution: the Gentle Way To Say Good-bye to Diapers by: Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2006), author Elizabeth Pamley shares the following facts regarding potty training age and milestones.

  • The perfect age to potty train is different for each child as children develop at different rates and ages with most children ready to start from 18 to 32 months and pre-training as early as 10 months.
  • A child's biological, and physical, skills and readiness will determine when a child is ready for independent toileting with most between 2 1/2 years of age and 4 years of age.
  • From the start of training to toilet independence takes from 3 to 12 months regardless of starting age.
  • The age at that a child is potty trained has no correlation to future abilities or intelligence.
  • Night-time dryness can only be achieved once the child is physiologically ready.
  • Most toddlers urinate every 2 hours for a total of 4 to 8 times per day.
  • Children have a regular pattern of bowel movements, some having one, two, or even three per day, while others skip a day or two between bowel movements.
  • 98% of children are daytime toilet trained by the age of 4.
  • A parent's readiness to potty train a child and be patient and positive is just as important as a child's readiness to be trained.

      Regardless of the expert or source, most experts agree that there is no ideal or perfect age to toilet-train a child. Each child is different physically, physiologically, and psychologically and thus possesses differing levels of readiness when it comes time to potty train. Parents must judge when their child is ready. Various readiness skills are associated with successful training. Remaining bowel-movement-free overnight is the earliest attained skill, occurring around 22 months of age in girls and 25 months in boys. The ability to pull up underwear or training pants is typically the last skill mastered, occurring around 29.5 months months in boys. Girls develop most skills earlier than boys. Usually girls at the age of 35.5 months, and boys 39 months. Children do not master all necessary skills to begin potty training until after 24 months of age, although some do as early as 12 months. Considering the time range for skills acquisition, parents may have difficulty judging when a toddler is ready for toilet training. Children whose parents overestimate readiness may face prolonged training or toileting problems. (Source: American Family Physician. 

What are the potty training readiness signs parents should look for?

Each expert or study use different readiness signs to observe. Experts normally include about a half dozen readiness factors, which often differ from study to study.  The following chart (21 Potty Training Readiness Signs) is  a compilation of the readiness signs from the available articles and peer reviewed potty training research. If the majority of the readiness signs are present, the child is ready to start potty training. The last three columns give the age range that most children display a particular readiness sign. The age range is provided for reference and is the average age most children display each particular sign.

Stanford Medicine Children's Health states your child is ready to start potty training they are able to:

  • Walk well in order to get to the potty chair

  • Tell you when there is a need to go to the potty

  • Control the muscles used for going to the potty

Other signs that your child may be ready for toilet training include:

  • Asks to have the diaper changed or tells you a bowel movement or urine is coming

  • Shows discomfort when the diaper is wet or dirty

  • Enjoys copying what parents or older children do

  • Follows you into the bathroom to see how the toilet is used

  • Wants to do things (such as going to the potty) to make parents happy or to get praise

  • Has dry diapers for at least 2 hours during the day or is dry after naps or overnight

What are some of the signs to indicate a child is not ready to toilet train?

In addition to being aware of the potty training readiness signs, parents should also be aware of signs that indicate a child is not ready to train such as:

  • Interest: The child is not curious about the toilet, how to use it, or what happens in the bathroom
  • Bowel movements: The child has fewer than three bowel movements per week, or the child has frequent wet or dirty diapers
  • Control: The child is unable to control their bladder or bowel movements
  • Physical challenges: The child has difficulty sitting or standing for long periods of time
  • Resistance: The child resists any effort to learn about the potty
  • Communication: The child is unable to communicate clearly they need urinate or have a BM
  • The child has stomach pain, or is constipation
  • Lack of bladder or bowel control: A child who is unable to control their bladder or bowel movements may not be physically ready for potty training. 
  • Difficulty sitting or standing: If a child has difficulty sitting or standing for extended periods of time, they may not be physically able to use the potty independently. ...
  • The child doesn't want to sit on the potty
  • The child doesn't tell you when they have had an accident in their diaper
  • The child has recently gone through a big change, like moving house, a new baby, illness, or changing childcare settings 
Potty training is one of the most challenging milestones for children to conquer and parents can increase the likelihood of success by ensuring their child shows the sign of readiness to begin training rather than considering the age of the child.


      1.  ParentingScience.com:  Dewer, G. (Year of publication, if available). Title of the Article. ParentingScience.com. URL
      2. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

      3. The No-Cry Potty Training Solution by Elizabeth Pantley:

        • Pantley, E. (2006). The No-Cry Potty Training Solution: The Gentle Way To Say Good-bye to Diapers. McGraw-Hill.
      4. American Family Physician:

      5. Stanford Medicine Children's Health:

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