Toilet training

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A young child sits on a potty chair as part of being toilet trained.

Toilet training, or potty training, is the process of training someone, particularly a young child, to use the toilet for urination and defecation, though training may start with a smaller toilet bowl-shaped device (often known as a potty). Cultural factors play a large part in what age is deemed appropriate, with the expectation for being potty trained ranging from 12 months for some tribes in Africa[1] to 36 months in the modern United States.[2] Most children can control their bowel before their bladder, boys typically start and finish later than girls, and it usually takes boys longer to learn to stay dry throughout the night, however it depends on the maturity and consistency of the particular child.[3]

Modern practice[edit]

Most people advise that toilet training is a mutual task, requiring cooperation, agreement and understanding between the child and the caregiver, and the best potty training techniques emphasize consistency and positive reinforcement over punishment – making it enjoyable for the child. The vast majority of studies concentrate on children 18 months old and older. In this age range, research suggests that children over 24 months train faster and girls train slightly faster than boys.[4][5][6]


Toilet training "accidents" are when a child urinates or defecates in an inappropriate place, such as in their underwear or training pants, or on the floor. Accidents are a normal part of toilet training.[7]

History in the United States[edit]

Until the mid-1900s, the vast majority of babies finished toilet training by 2 years, and achieved nighttime dryness by 3 years.[8] Since then, the age for toilet training has increased dramatically. The convenience of disposable diapers, pull-up diapers (such as Huggies Pull-Ups introduced in 1989) and more efficient laundry facilities may contribute to this trend.

In 1957, the average age of starting toilet training was still under the age of one year, 11 months, and 90% of children were dry during the day by 2 years.[8]

In 2002, the average age that parents recognized their child "showing an interest in using the potty" was 24–25 months, and daytime dryness was achieved on average at almost 3 years of age.[3] Now nighttime accidents are considered normal until 5 or 6 years of age.[9]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Devries, MW; Devries, MR (1977). "Cultural relativity of toilet training readiness: A perspective from East Africa". Pediatrics. 60 (2): 170–7. PMID 887331.
  2. ^ Blum NJ, Taubman B, Nemeth N (2003). "Relationship between age at initiation of toilet training and duration of training: A prospective study". Pediatrics. 111 (4 Pt 1): 810–4. doi:10.1542/peds.111.4.810. PMID 12671117.
  3. ^ a b Schum, T. R.; Kolb, T. M.; McAuliffe, T. L.; Simms, M. D.; Underhill, R. L.; Lewis, M. (2002). "Sequential acquisition of toilet training skills: A descriptive study of gender and age differences in normal children". Pediatrics. 109 (3): e48. doi:10.1542/peds.109.3.e48. PMID 11875176.
  4. ^ Toilet Training Your Child. Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  5. ^ Surviving Toilet Training. Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  6. ^ Health: Toddlers and toilet training. BBC. Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  7. ^ "Potty Training Accidents | What to Expect". Whattoexpect. Retrieved 2018-07-29.
  8. ^ a b Sears, Robert R., Maccoby, Eleanor and Levin, Harry (1957). Patterns of Child Rearing. pp. 102–137. Evanston IL: Row, Peterson, and Co.
  9. ^ Toilet Training.