Updated: Aug 7
Inside: Is there an ideal window for potty training, and if so what is the best potty training age?
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There’s a reason those emails comparing your growing baby to fruit (this week your baby is the size of an avocado!) feel so satisfying to many expectant parents.
Those milestone comparisons help you have a clear marker in your mind.
At this week, my baby should look like this. Moms like to know specifics. What to expect.
That’s why you’ve likely heard the same kind of talk around the playground with other milestones.
When to jump into solid foods. When to move your child into a toddler bed. And the big question that every mom on the playground has an answer for…
When is the best potty training age for your toddler?
I’m sure you’ll hear many opinions on the question of when your child will be *ready* to potty train.
What I'm sharing is the pattern of what we see as potty training consultants, and what’s behind the ideal potty training window that Jamie shares in Oh Crap Potty Training.
Here’s more on timing the start of potty training just right..
If you ask around a group of moms, you'll likely hear many moms talking about how they knew when their child was *ready* to potty train.
What Jamie points out in Oh Crap Potty Training is how confusing that statement really is.
What does *ready* even look like?
With walking, crawling, even putting together words, the child will naturally start to walk, crawl, and speak because it's a developmental milestone.
Without you doing anything, your child is going to start doing those skills.
But using the potty to go pee and poop is a social norm. That's different.
Children are diapered from day one, sometimes even moments out of the womb and before they nurse. A diaper is all they've known. There's not some internal clock inside the child that tells them they're *ready* to now start putting their pee and poop in the potty.
It's a big skill that we're in charge of teaching them.
Potty training is the common American saying, but you'll also hear *toilet learning* in other parts of the world, which is an awesome way to look at the process, in my opinion.
Your child really is learning to use the toilet.
You're teaching the child to use the toilet.
So what we say in Oh Crap Potty Training is not to look for when your child is *ready* because who knows what that even means or what that looks like.
Related: When YOU feel ready to step into potty training, here's a way to feel more confident that you won't see a disaster. I put together tips and solutions for how to move through the common issues I see pop in the early days of potty training, all in one simple e-course, Potty Training Solutions.
What are you looking for to know when to start?
You're looking for the potty training age for when your child is *capable* of learning this big new skill.
Through her work with thousands of families, Jamie found the magic window to be between ages 20-30 months. I personally potty trained my kiddos at 22 months and 25 months. Now as a potty training consultant, I've witnessed firsthand what potty training along the wide spectrum of ages looks like.
Age does make a difference.
Is that *best potty training age* a hard-and-fast number?
Not by any stretch. Here's why.
I've worked with families potty training their 18- or 19-month-olds using Oh Crap Potty Training.
I've also worked with many moms whose kiddos are about to turn 4.
One mama started working with me right when she jumped into potty training her 34- month-old son. It went super well and he even moved through to being night trained within a matter of weeks. (You can find out from other moms what it's like to work with me here.)
But wait, didn't I just say 20-30 months is the best potty training age?
Doesn't that disprove what I just said above?
Nope, and here's why..
Every kiddo is different.
Every potty training journey will look very different (even in the same family.)
But there are reasons why we see that magical best-potty-training age set at 20-30 months as a pattern.
It's a combination of..
1. Where the child is developmentally
If you potty train your child around 20 months or younger it will often look different because of where the child is developmentally in terms of speech and also the process clicking together in their head.
Is it possible to potty train your child at 18 months, for example?
It just may take more time and your process may look different than someone jumping in at, say, 25 months.
2. What the child is focusing on
Around age 2 is when many children start to notice that their parents use the potty, and they often start to show a curiosity in what that looks like and why we use this thing called a toilet.
And it's also when children are still developmentally *trying to please* mama.
What happens as the child gets older? They move onto other things.
By age 3, toddlers are in a whole other world of observation and focus as big preschoolers who are much more in tune with their world.
By age 3, they're also showing more signs of individuation and less *pleasing mama*.
An easy example is your toddler getting dressed.
A 2-year-old may let you pick out their clothes.
A 3-year-old likely wants to do it all by herself or himself.
Take it one step further and think about how much easier it is to direct a 2-year-old to use the potty as a thing we do, as opposed to 3-year-olds who want to do things *their* way. It's a world of difference and it can make potty training SO much harder when you're outside that ideal window.
3. Training versus un-training
We call this thing *potty training*, but here's another way to look at it..
You're *un-training* your child to pee and poop in a diaper. Right?
Because that's what they've known. From the time they're babies they are in a snug diaper where they pee and poop.
Your child may be used to standing to poop (very common) so even sitting to poop will be a new thing to learn.
Related: Standing poopers often resist sitting on the potty to poop. I talk through solutions for that issue in my e-course Potty Training Solutions.
Remember when you step into potty training, your child will have spent 2 or 3 years with the sensation of warm poop being smushed against their bottom before the diaper gets changed.
So, is it easier to un-train a child about pooping in a diaper when the pattern has been going on for 2 years or 3 or 4 years?
We see a lot more poop issues with 3-year-olds as potty training consultants because it's a harder pattern to break. Simply because the pattern has being going on for a longer time.
It's what the child knows and actually *feels comfortable* with at that point. And one of the easiest ways to prep your child for this new normal, to plant the seed for what's coming next, is to bring in some visuals on what it's going to look like.
Here are a few of my favorite books for toddlers to help normalize poop, using the potty, and even what's happening in your body when you need to pee. Don't wait till the potty comes out to start normalizing peeing and pooping as a normal thing we all do.
Plant the seed now!
1. What's a Potty For? : This new potty book shows different scenarios for how and when to use a potty.
2. Time to Pee: Mo Willems and a book on pee makes for one funny potty book that also teaches your child what to do when they feel the pee.
3. What is Poop? : My favorite potty book on poop and I've even worked with families where this flipped the child who had some mild fear around pooping.
4. The Human Body: Not a potty book per say, but a super fun interactive book (you can use a flashlight or your phone to find the hidden things in pictures.
And for the big question of when to start potty training, here's my advice.
Think of 20-30 months as a general guide for the best potty training age.
Not a marker of what your experience will *definitely* be potty training..but simply a pattern we've seen to keep in mind.
If schedules and life make it much easier for you to potty train your child at 31 months, for example (since this was a question I was just asked by a mom), I promise you will be in a good place.
Because the other half of the equation in potty training is YOU.
What is your mindset going into potty training? Are you anxious? Are you feeling *in the zone*?
If you're feeling confident, supported, lets-do-this, then your potty training journey will reflect that.
Someone who jumps in with their child at 24 months filled with doubts and not sold on the idea that their child is *capable* will have a much different potty training journey — things are much more stacked against you if that's how you're feeling.
Then you're the one who's not *ready*.
As with teaching our children anything, there are *ideal windows* but in the end, your kiddos are going to follow your lead, feel your confidence that they can do this big new skill, and that is a huge part of potty training a toddler successfully.
No matter what age.
Illustrations: Citrus and Mint