top of page

How to Help Toddlers Be More Independent on the Toilet

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

Inside: How to help your toddler be more independent with going pee in the potty.

This content contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission if you make a purchase using these links.

Sometimes I’ll hear from a mom whose toddler is getting their pees and poops in the potty. Accidents aren’t an issue.

But the mom is feeling super frustrated. Why?

Here’s how a pee in the potty looks.

The mom prompts her child to go pee in the potty (always).

The mom brings the child to the potty.

The mom helps with the pants.

The mom helps with wiping.

The mom helps with pants again.

The mom helps with the soap.

And then the child goes to play.

Notice a pattern? The mom is doing ALL THE WORK!

So what can you do when your child is potty trained in that you’re not seeing accidents, but you’re also exhausted of being on top of prompting and doing pretty much all the steps (except the actual peeing.)

Here’s what can help..

How to help toddlers be more independent on the toilet

Many mamas share with me that even though potty training is going reasonably okay, there's one thing that's driving them crazy.

Their child relies on them *for everything*.

So look to these simple tips that (over time) encourage independent toileting with your toddler.

And a more independent toddler in general.

You know, encouraging independent toileting isn't just about freeing you up as the parent.

It's also at the root of some of the potty resistance you may be seeing.

Toddlers at this developmental age have that push/pull happening of wanting to do it all by themselves, but being *frustrated* by the fact that they can't.

The more that you set your toddler up for success independently, the less of those frustration meltdowns you'll see.

So let's go over some tricks for how to encourage independent toileting with your toddler!

1. Set up the bathroom so your child can reach everything.

That means having a potty insert for the toilet, a stepstool that can be used to access the big toilet or the sink, and soap that your child can use by themselves.

Some liquid pumps are too hard for toddlers to use — watch and see if your child can actually pump out the soap herself. You can get a bar soap that's easier for little hands (or roll-on soap to make it fun so they can draw the soap on their hands!). Do you have a towel that your child can reach to dry hands?

Some kids really like to put the potty insert on the toilet themselves.

We liked to hang ours on a hook so that you didn't see a potty insert just hanging out on the bathroom floor. My kids knew it was their job to hang up the insert after they went potty (but before washing hands).

Don't be afraid to give your toddler *jobs* as they actually love to take on the extra responsibility. It makes them feel bigger and it all helps with that focus of how to encourage independent toileting.

Related: Looking to activate your toddler's autonomy? I'm a huge fan of this book on bringing Montessori ideas (in a practical way) at home, so you can support your toddler's natural desire to be more independent. Even change the flow of meal prep with your toddler helping in the kitchen. And bonus: the more the child is set up to do things themselves, the less whining you tend to hear.

parenting tips child listening
Feel like your toddler just won't listen and you're seeing resistance? Make sure you're making eye contact!

2. Practice the pushdown of pants

The pants are where so many potty training journeys come to a screeching halt.


And the natural thought of just helping your child with their pants is not always the cure. Some strong-willed kids will kickback with resistance to the potty period, once they realize they're messing up that one important step and you're getting pees in the pants. Then there's daycare/preschool where teachers and caregivers will not always be available to help your child. So what do you do?

Practice, practice, practice. How?

Start have regular pants *dress-up parties* with your child at times of the day when you're not rushing out anywhere. Lay out all their pants or leggings, make it fun with music playing, and see how it goes! You'll be able to see if a particular pair of pants really trips up your toddler (then keep those out of rotation for a while). You'll be able to describe what you need to do with your hands and thumbs to *push* the pants down.

I remember when my child was in a toddler Montessori program up here in Maine. And I was dumbfounded to learn that my 19-month-old knew how to put on and take off his snowpants, as did his friends in class. It wasn't some miracle of development. It was literally daily practice.

His teachers blocked off time before recess so the kids could work on doing their snowpants.

Don't underestimate what a little practice can do for your toddler, including helping your toddler master snowpants.

Because knowing how to put on snow pants is an *important* skill (especially up in Maine!).

Likewise, the pants are a huge skill needed and it's another way to encourage independent toileting of your child.

If you haven't started potty training, then dive in now with your pants parties so your child has that skill down as you start!

3. Encourage independence outside the potty.

Look for ways to build up your child's independence (and confidence) in ways outside using the potty. So that includes simple things, like pulling your child in to making small everyday decisions.

What veggie should we have with dinner, peas or carrots?

How many books should we read, 2 or 3?

And it also means doing less for your child and giving them more little jobs. It gives your child a feeling of pride, and it adds to that feeling of being a big kid who now uses the potty and does all these other *big* things.

Here's a great one that's kind of related to potty training.

I hear a lot of mamas who share that once starting potty training, their toddler simply started drinking less. Like a lot less. Like they're smart toddlers and they know drinking causes them to pee more. And it starts to become a thing. Here's one way to counteract that and encourage independence in your child.

Look for hydrating snacks, like sliced oranges for your potty training toddler.

Set out a small pitcher of water with a toddler cup (or a rainbow of cups to choose from) and let your child pour the water and serve themselves. You can even slice up a favorite fruit, like sliced oranges, to make the water feel extra *fancy* for your toddler.

How to help toddlers be more independing on the toilet

Just like with food, toddlers are more apt to drink (or eat) what they've had a hand in making or choosing.

Think of these tips like a wheel you're putting into motion. None of these ideas are quick fixes and will change things overnight. But as with everything with toddlers, it's consistency for the win.

And if you're consistently doing all the work, your toddler may not step up to go potty all by himself.

Want more help? Add a few books to your library that focus more on children being so big and doing things, and choosing things, all by themselves. Here are a few favorite books all about sparking that independent streak.

1. Today: This book is a favorite of ours, and one that will be in rotation for years. Each beautifully illustrated page prompts your child to choose what they would do. My kids love getting to choose what clothes they'd where, which outing they'd do, and how they'd get there. It's just about the sweetest version of choose-your-own-adventure since the drawings are so fun.

2. Very First Book of Things to Spot: Here's an interactive book that challenges your child to find things in pictures of very ordinary outings (like going to the market).

3. I Can Do It Myself: If you've been on my blog before, you've probably heard me praise this book. I truly think it's one of the best out there for young toddlers moving into that stage of I Can Do It Myself.

4. All You Need to Know Before You Start School: This book talks through the little details, including getting the bag ready for preschool, and what it will look like when your toddler needs to pee during recess.

5. Everyone Poops: Of the poop books out there, I like how this shows you how pants are down or the child is bare-bummed..this is what it looks like to sit on the potty.

6. I Know A Lot and Now I Am Big: Two more books all about empowering toddlers and their independence, noting the small but meaningful things they know and can that they're so big.

7. The Montessori Toddler: This book's for you if you're looking to bring the Montessori spirit of supporting your child's inner drive to do things themselves, which practical advice on how to set up your home and think on toddler behavior.

Illustrations: Citrus and Mint Designs


bottom of page