Our helpline advisors deal with many enquiries about potty training every day. Here are their answers to the most frequently asked questions.

1. My daughter is 2. My mother says I should start potty training but how do I know if she’s ready?

Children are normally ready to potty train between 18 months and 3 years but every child is different. If your daughter can sit on a potty and get off when she’s finished, that’s a good sign. If she can follow instructions and tell you what she wants or needs, that will really help too. 

Being able to stay dry and hold her wee for an hour or two is an indication that she's ready to try, as is going for a poo at the same time every day. If she’s starting to notice that she's done a wee or a poo, this is also a sign that she’s recognising the signals her body is giving her which could mean she’s ready to leave nappies behind.

2. How long will potty training take?

Your little one is still at an age when they’re learning their body’s signals for when they need a wee and poo and this can take time. Potty training can take weeks or months for some children with many accidents along the way. Choose a time to try that’s right for your child and for you.

3. Do we have to stay at home while we potty train?

It’s probably best to wait until things are going well with potty training at home before you go out and about, but that isn't always possible. Keep your first trips short, plan where you're going and find out where your nearest toilet is. Remember to take everything you need like the potty, wipes and changes of clothes.

4. My son is 3 and not showing signs of being ready for potty training but nursery says he can't start in nappies. What should I do?

The nursery aren't able to insist on this. Take a look at our information about managing bowel and bladder health in nurseries and schools which sets out exactly what support you can expect from the nursery until your son is toilet trained.

When you're ready to start potty training, nursery can help you while he’s in their care. Whatever approach you decide to take, they should be doing the same and using the same words that you use at home.

Once you've decided to start potty training try not to go back and forth between nappies and pants. Being consistent will really help your potty training.

5. My son was doing so well in his first week of potty training but he seems to be having lots of accidents now. Why has he gone backwards?

The first thing would be to make sure that he's not constipated which can cause wee accidents. If he's going for a poo less than four times a week, if it’s hard to pass or like rabbit droppings, he may be constipated and you might want to see your doctor.

He's still learning his body’s signals so making sure he's drinking really well will help. When his bladder is full it sends a strong signal to his brain that it needs emptying. Drinking well will also help to keep his poo soft and easy to pass.

It could be that he's just lost his motivation; going to the potty or toilet has become boring. Think about introducing a reward system and making the bathroom a fun place to be - have a look at our toileting reward chart. Reward him for every little step along the way, like washing hands or flushing away the poo as well as for sitting on the potty or toilet. Sometimes it can help to keep a lucky dip bag full of inexpensive treats in the bathroom for a small, instant reward.

6. My daughter will only a poo in a nappy and refuses to sit on the potty. What can I do?

In the short term, let her do her poo in the nappy. Otherwise she’ll be likely to hold onto her poo and the vicious cycle of constipation will begin. Constipation may already be playing a part; hard stools will cause discomfort and make your daughter reluctant to poo. Read ERIC’s Guide to Children’s Bowel Problems for more information.

Your daughter might be frightened of the poo falling into the potty or toilet. Give her lots of reassurance, but be firm that the place for poos to go is down the loo. Involve her in wiping her bottom and emptying the nappy into the toilet.

Then aim to move her very gradually towards removing the nappy – first by sitting on the potty or toilet with the nappy on, then loosening the nappy a little more every day, moving it away from their bottom bit by bit.

See our page 'Children who will only poo in a nappy' for more detailed information.

7. When should I stop putting a nighttime nappy on my child?

If your child has been dry during the day for a while and is occasionally or regularly waking up with a dry nappy in the morning, try removing the nappy at night. Protect the mattress with a waterproof cover so you don’t have to worry about accidents. Take a look at our shop for waterproof top sheets, duvets protectors and pillow protectors.

If your child is interested (they often provide a clue by commenting on wet beds or wet nappies), let them know what you’re going to do. Explain that they need to get up if they need a wee at night. Practise their nighttime routine – make sure they have their last drink an hour before bed and go for a wee just before sleep time. Remove the nappy and put on ordinary pants, leave a night light on and a potty beside the bed. Give plenty of praise and encouragement, even if there aren’t many dry nights to begin with.

If your child doesn’t have a dry night after trying for two or three weeks, it may be that they’re just not ready to be dry at night yet. Have another go in two or three months’ time.