Must Haves Before You Begin Toilet Learning


When attempting to master a new task or skill, preparation is key. This is true for adults and children alike. Toilet training can seem to be an overwhelming challenge; a challenge that parents often approach with fear, dread, and lots of uncertainty. You wonder if you are prepared for the accidents, negotiations, laundry; you wonder if your child is ready for this new skill.

I learned through my years of parenting and Montessori training that children show signs of readiness to begin toileting much earlier than most parents begin toilet training. Readiness signs may include walking well, wanting to watch parents use the toilet, interest in going into the bathroom, investigating the toilet – opening the lid, flushing, putting things in it, taking their diaper off, getting on the toilet, wanting to dress and undress independently, and communicating to you or showing you that they are wet or dirty.

When your child shows signs of readiness to begin the toileting process, have no fear, but get prepared!

Give your little one some boundaries while they explore the bathroom. You may tell your curious little one, “You may sit on your bottom while on the toilet.” this will communicate that the toilet is for sitting, not climbing, and help keep your child safe. You may also let them wash their hands and then say, “let’s turn the water off when we are done washing our hands.” We all know that toddlers love to play in water, showing them now how not to waste water certainly can’t hurt. You may also say, “you may flush the toilet once, when we are all done,” because we all know some little ones will flush that toilet a thousand times if we allow them. Let your child get comfortable with the bathroom and set boundaries that communicate the expectations and proper behavior in the bathroom.

What You’ll Need

  • An insert for the toilet

    I recommend either using an insert in a full sized toilet, or buying and installing a miniature toilet (like a real toilet, but miniaturized like you see in elementary schools.) These can be a little expensive, but are relatively easy to install and usually sit in the same footprint as a regular sized toilet.

    • I do not recommend using a small potty seat and here is the reason why: First of all, it does not flush and you or your child will be having to carry that little bowl to the real toilet to flush and then clean it, so I’d rather just skip that part and use the real toilet. Secondly, I have heard from many parents that when their child grows out of the potty seat, their children are afraid of the real toilet. They are so used to sitting low that when it comes time to climb up on the stool and sit on a real toilet, the child is hesitant and will sometimes regress. Introducing them to a real toilet to begin with will allow you to skip extra cleaning and possible regression.
  • One or two stools.

    I always recommend having a stool by the toilet and a stool by the sink. If you have a small bathroom try to find a stool that is light so that your child can carry the stool back and forth from the toilet to the sink when necessary.

  • Waste bin

    Be sure to have an extra waste bin in the bathroom for extra tissue, pull ups, or diapers that need to be thrown out.

  • Small washcloths and big towels.

    The small washcloths will be used for the child to dry their hands once they are finished washing them. The big towels are used when the child pees or has a bowel movement right in front of the toilet. These types of accidents are normal at the beginning of the process, so we just want to be prepared.

  • Laundry basket or a wet bag

    You can hang the wet bag in the bathroom to save some space if you do not have enough room for a laundry basket. This will be used for soiled clothing. And yes, when you go through the toileting process there will be a lot of soiled clothing in the beginning. I recommend at the end of each day you empty the laundry basket or wet bag and wash everything that is in there that same day. You probably will be doing a load or two a day, if you’re not already.

  • Small soap

    The child will need a small bar of soap or a soap dispenser (for liquid soap) to wash their hands. Be sure this is filled everyday so that your child has it when needed.

  • Two baskets

    One basket is for cloth underpants and the other for pants and a couple of shirts. This helps the child change independently once they are ready. Everything is right there for them and they know where to find it, so they will be successful at putting on dry clothes independently. You will also need to make sure that these baskets are filled daily with clean clothes.

Once that environment is prepared, we want to make sure that the child has a positive experience. This means keeping the bathroom door open and not putting up any gates to block their entry. The child needs to know and learn what the bathroom is for and need to be allowed in and shown what to do when they are in the bathroom. Allow them to explore the bathroom and give them the language to everything that is in the room. I encourage you to use real words such as toilet, step stool, sink, or towel. Do not use baby talk or add a “y” to any of your language. They are absorbing all of the language we present to them, so we want to make sure we are saying things correctly, allowing them to learn it the right way, the first time.

Always remember, be patient, understanding, and calm while your child is in this process. It is a lot of work, but all of that hard work will pay off sooner than you know.

How has toilet training gone for you? What are your recommendations?


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