Readiness for kinder and school – toilet training

Janie Thompson, Nurse Continence Specialist and Clinical Services Manager talks about readiness for toilet training

When to start toilet training your child can be a challenging decision for parents.  Family and friends are often very keen to give advice.  As a parent, you know your child best and what works for your family situation.  It might be helpful to understand what the signs of readiness for toilet training are. This may help you decide when it might be a good time to start your child’s toilet training journey.

A research review on when to start toilet training and the signs of toilet training readiness, found that there are 21 signs of readiness for toilet training. These signs start to be developed from 1 ½ months of age (ability to initiate behaviour) through to 36 months of age, when most of the 21 signs are usually fully developed.

Readiness for kinder and school toilet trainingLook for the signs of readiness, as listed below, which may help guide when to start toilet training your child.  Remember a child doesn’t need to have all the signs of readiness. If your child can stay dry for 1 ½ - 2 hours, knows the difference between being wet and dry or asks to go nappy free, and can follow simple commands, you are probably already well on your way.  Remember to expect accidents and have a mop and bucket ready at hand. It is also okay to take a break if you or your child need it or require professional support.


The 21 Signs of Readiness for Toilet Training

  1. Can initiate behaviour
  2. Can sit stably without help
  3. Can walk without help
  4. Can pick up small objects
  5. Can say ‘no’ as a sign of independence
  6. Has voluntary control of bladder and bowel function
  7. Can respond to direction and follow simple commands
  8. Can express the need to pass urine or a bowel motion or has wet/soiled self by signs or words
  9. Likes to put things in containers
  10. Is aware of bladder sensations and the need to use the toilet
  11. Understands toilet related words and can talk for themselves
  12. Is interested and wants to be involved in toilet training
  13. Has a bigger bladder capacity
  14. Wants to do complete tasks independently and is proud of this
  15. Asks to use the toilet
  16. Wants to be clean and is upset if wet/soiled
  17. Wants to wear grown up clothes
  18. Can pull clothes up and down
  19. Does not use bowels overnight
  20. Starts to put things where they belong
  21. Can sit still on the toilet for 5-10 minutes

You can use this list of toilet training readiness signs to think about which skills your child has developed or is developing.  Being able to control your bladder and bowels and using the toilet are complex things to do.  Don’t forget to give yourself and your child the time and energy you all need when embarking on their toilet training journey. 

Once your child is toilet trained, you can enjoy the positive effects this will have on them socially and on their health.  It will also have a financial benefit plus be positive for the environment.  Please call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 to speak confidentially to a Nurse Continence Specialist if you would like individual advice on toilet training.


Toilet Training Resources

The Continence Foundation of Australia has several resources available to help your child reach those important milestones and gain greater toileting independence.  All our resources are user friendly with pictures and easy to follow steps, providing a general guide for parents and caregivers. Download your free copies today from our website toilet-training

You may find these guides particularly useful:

Easy Guide to Toilet Training

Girls and Boys Toileting Sequence Pictures



Kaerts N, Van Hal G, Vermandel A and Wyndale J-J. Readiness signs used to define the proper moment to start toilet training: A review of the literature. Neurourol Urodyn. 2012 Apr; 31(4):437-440. doi: 10.1002/nau.2121.