When should your toddler start potty training?

When it comes to potty training kids, the No. 1 question on many parents’ minds is when to start, and how to go about it.

We likewise had the same question on our minds, and when our four-year-old (nicknamed Barnacles) was about 2-and-a-half years old, we read him several books about potty training, but he was just not that keen to use the potty. We were not too bothered, as our mindset had always been that potty training is a natural process that kids would all get to eventually, and there was no need to rush it.

As it turns out, we are quite glad we went with that approach. Just before Barnacles turned three, we started speaking to him again about using the potty, peppered with suggestions for him to wear underpants instead of diapers as they were more comfortable and definitely cooler (both literally and figuratively). He was quite receptive to the idea, and requested for a potty, which we purchased – we chose one from Toys ”R” Us that looked like a mini toilet bowl, also available here. We showed him how to use it, and placed it at an accessible place in the toilet.

At the start, we reminded him to use the toilet every 30 minutes to an hour, which was the same practice in his preschool at the time. While we did have several pee accidents either when he waited too long to visit the toilet or we forgot to remind him, there were no major accidents. All in all, he was potty trained during his waking hours, in a week. We used to joke that he practically potty trained himself!

We chose the Combi potty as it is convertible into a step stool.

We were told that nighttime potty training would take longer, which was true, and were quite happy to keep Barnacles in diapers at night. However, one evening, he said he didn’t want to wear diapers to bed anymore as they were ‘not comfortable’. Mummy was quite reluctant at the start, not relishing the possibility of changing soaking wet bedsheets at 1 in the morning (speaking of which, we chose waterproof bedsheets from b.sensible which we love). However, at his insistence, we let him go to bed without a diaper – there were thankfully no accidents that night. Now that he is four, our usual bedtime routine is to read books, then get him to visit the toilet just before going to sleep. This usually ensures that he stays dry the entire night, unless he has had a lot to drink in the last hour before bed. In that case, we sometimes sneak a diaper on him after he falls asleep – which is often for our own peace of mind, as he has shown several times that he can wake up to visit the toilet if necessary, unless he is exhausted.

With our before-bedtime toilet routine, while we have had our fair share of wet bedsheets in the early morning hours when he was too tired to get up if he needed the toilet, these are thankfully now few and far between. If you are just starting on nighttime potty training for your child, some parents we know get their children to visit the toilet every few hours at night to start with.

We purchased bamboo underpants with vehicle designs, which our four-year-old loves.

So what do you do if you’re out with the family and the little one suddenly needs a trip to the loo but there isn’t one nearby? One viable option is to have a portable potty – we would recommend the Potette Plus as it is foldable and compact enough to fit into a small bag. This works well for several families we know. While we have the Potette Plus, we found that just keeping an extra diaper handy worked better for us as it did not take up extra space. When Barnacles needed a bathroom visit while we were out with no toilet nearby, we just pulled the car over, opened up the diaper to become a ‘portable potty’, and just rolled up the diaper and threw it into the bin after.

This ease of toilet training, coupled with an article we recently read about the dangers of early potty training, cemented our belief that when the child is physically ready, toilet training is an extremely smooth process. We do have friends who have managed to potty train their kids at a younger age – which is great as they managed to save money on diapers – but for us, it is not worth the extra effort. For Barnacles, it did not take much effort on our part to toilet train him (apart from fun shopping trips to buy the necessary gear), and for that we are extremely thankful.

So, for parents who are worrying over when to start and what to do, wait for your child to give you signals that he or she is ready – he or she should be able to express himself well or indicate the need to go in the diaper before doing so. It is highly unlikely that they will be going to primary school in diapers, so don’t worry too much!


Mummy and Daddy Daycare are the pseudonyms of a Singaporean husband and wife who are raising two young boys aged four and one, nicknamed Barnacles and Kwazii from the children’s Octonauts series. Get into the minds of this couple who describe parenthood as a lifetime adventure – you are always learning something new! Whoever said parenting was a walk in the park?

Other articles by Mummy and Daddy Daycare:

How to enjoy a restaurant meal with toddlers in tow

Nurturing a love for books in children

Choosing the right sports for your tiny tots