Toilet training is a dirty job but choosing the right toilet training method to go along with your parenting style and family dynamics can make the process easier. We’ve outlined four of the most successful toilet training methods by age group. We’ve also included some thoughts on what kinds of situations they work well with to help you get started.
0-12 months: The Infant Toilet Training Approach
This method has been used for generations all over the world, and it has recently been gaining popularity in the United States because of its drastic reduction in diaper costs. It is generally known as the Infant Toilet Training Method, and its name basically explains it. As early as you can, you watch for signs your baby gives signaling they are about to eliminate. You then hold you baby directly over the toilet while they go. Parents in Vietnam and Kenya have been known to use a sound similar to hissing while their child is urinating. This eventually becomes a cue for the baby that it should pee.
Is it for you?
The Infant Toilet Training Method is ideal for families with only a few caregivers who are really on board with the process because it can get messy. Many parents choose to still diaper their babies and use this method once they’ve gotten the pattern well figured out. One interesting outcome is that many mothers report a very strong sense of connection to their infants as they so closely monitor their gestures, facial expressions, and other cues.
18-24 months: The One Day Approach
In this method, which is also perpetuated under the monikers Two Day and Three Day Method, is categorized as parent-led, which means parents play a prominent role in training their child. Originally designed for children 20 months and older, newer adaptations have seen success with children around 18 months. Most experts say attempting this method after the 24 month mark tends to be less successful, perhaps because of the child’s growing independence.
The first and obvious point of this approach is it was designed to train your child in only a few days. This usually requires that they run around naked on the bottom half for the majority of that time. The other major component is the emphasis on practice drills, which really means taking your child to the toilet at regular intervals to see if they can go. Other strategies include demonstrating with dolls, using a reward system to incentivize the process, and correcting accidents by taking your child to the toilet immediately.
Is it for you?
If you have a larger chunk of time, usually around a week, to really devote to this method, it tends to be successful. The downside is you have to be diligent! Leave your child alone for two seconds within the first few days, and you will be cleaning up an accident. This method can also be a bit much for your carpeting, so try to keep your child on tile, hardwood, or even better—outside!
24+ months: The Brazelton Approach
In this child-led approach, the principal idea is to wait until your child indicates they are ready and interested in toilet training. Being “ready” means they should have at least some indicators in all three areas of their developmental areas: physical, mental, and emotional. This can vary greatly from child to child, but older toddlers typically display more readiness across the domains than younger ones.
Able to get oneself onto the toilet (for the most part)
Able to help undress
Can go at least 2 hours without soiling a nappy
Dislikes the feeling of a dirty nappy
Bowel movements are more predictable or even regular
Has language for wee, poop, bathroom, toilet, etc.
Can follow simple directions
Has low stress (no major life changes from their perspective)
Has high interest in using the toilet or “big kid” underwear
Overall cooperative (not in one of thosephases)
Once they’ve indicated readiness, you can slowly introduce toilet training in a series of steps, typically over several weeks or even months. First bring in a toilet and encourage, but don’t insist, that they sit on it fully clothed. Once this has been successful, try without a nappy. You continue to progress until your child uses the toilet, hopefully spontaneously. A 2003 study on this method concluded that the average age for a child to become completely toilet trained was between 34-38 months.
Is it for you?
The Brazelton Method works well for families who aren’t in any kind of hurry to get their child toilet trained. It can also be a low-pressure option for families working with particularly strong-willed toddlers, those who are particularly sensitive, or those reluctant to change.
24+ months: The Techy Approach
As technology and data continue to drive our lives, why should potty training be any different? A new wearable wetness detector called Oopsie Heroes has recently become available, to the high praise and gratitude of every parent with other responsibilities at home beyond carefully monitoring the wetness status of little ones. This device is also compatible with any of the other toilet training methods you choose. It is especially beneficial once you’ve already laid the grounds work, but your little one may still get distracted and ignore their body’s signals from time to time.
Is it for you?
This is a great addition to your toilet training toolbox when your little one is wearing underwear regularly and is mostly reliable, but either they (or you) get distracted and forget to take a potty break. If you have a secretive toddler, this can also help avoid the “What wet spot did I just step in!?” experience. If your toddler won’t tell you, Oopsie Heroes definitely will.
As you weigh your options and evaluate which method fits nicely with your situation and end goals, it’s important to keep in mind that each child is unique, and also malleable. If you start with one approach and things just don’t seem to be going well, it’s always okay to stop, regroup, and change course. Through your savvy combination of research, intuition, and creativity, you will certainly find a plan that works for you and your child, and ultimately leads to toilet training success.
Want more toilet training ideas? Check out our 10 Tips for Toilet Training Success that are compatible with any of the methods described here.