In this section


Are boys and girls different to potty train?

print page image

Tips for boys

- Most boys start by sitting down, but many like to copy Daddy and wee standing up after a bit. So show your toddler how to point his willy down to avoid spraying the room, whether he's sitting or standing.

- Pop a piece of loo roll, or even a single Shreddie, in the loo water for him to aim at. Add blue food dye to the toilet bowl – it'll turn green when he wees on it. Or add shampoo to the loo water to make bubbles!

- Mum Caitlin Thomas suggests giving your toddler a reward: "Robert becomes upset when he knows a poo is coming and needs a cuddle. Then we give him a gold star which he really likes."

Tips for girls

- Girls are particularly prone to urinary infections, so they need to learn to wipe from front to back. This can be tricky at first, so teach your daughter to dab herself at the front only to start with.

- Avoid clingy tights that are difficult to get off in a hurry. Stick to trousers (with an elasticated waistband), dresses and skirts, plus socks, for ease.

When it comes to potty training your toddler, does having a boy or a girl affect your approach? Health visitor Kate Daymond thinks there really is a gender divide…

Why is potty training different for boys and girls?

Boys tend to be ready for potty training at two-and-a-half to three years old, while girls are ready around age two. This is because:

  • The development of the nerves that control the muscles needed to hold on to a wee, or know when to do a poo, is directly related to a toddler's readiness for potty training. Boys' nerve connections appear to occur later than girls' do. 
  • Boys have to get used to two methods of going to the loo: sitting and standing. Whereas girls just have to learn to sit.
  • Main carers of small children tend to be female, and this might help to make girls more open to the idea of potty training and using the loo. After all, they've got the perfect role models right there!

Is my toddler ready?

The most important thing is to wait until your toddler is really ready. The key signs to look out are:

  • showing an interest in the loo or potty
  • noticing when you're going to the loo
  • knowing when a wee or poo is on its way
  • having the words for wee and poo 
  • having long periods with a dry nappy.

What equipment do I need?

Potties Two if possible, one for the sitting room and one for the bathroom, because a potty needs to be within easy reach!
Toddler-sized toilet seat adaptor Very handy once your little one is ready for the loo, especially for those who fear falling in (a common worry!).
Step stool Having somewhere secure to rest the feet is a confidence booster for tots.
Portable toddler loo seat (or portable potty) Useful away from home, but not essential.
Toddler toilet wipes Preferably flushable ones, as this can be a messy old business…

How can I motivate my toddler?

Girls may be happy to sit on the potty, but some boys find it hard to stay still. So to get your tot onside...

  • give loads of praise and attention, and don't get stressed or cross when the inevitable accidents happen 
  • share stories or sing songs while your tot 'sits'
  • pop a sticker chart next to the loo to motivate your toddler. When the chart's full, give a little treat such as a trip to the swimming pool.

Training pants

Pull-up nappies or training pants can be useful as a halfway house between nappies and knickers, and are very handy when travelling or at night-time. Some provide a wet sensation so your tot can tell when he's done a wee, and others have images that fade when wet, helping him learn to stay dry.