Keys to Toilet Training Success

Learning to urinate on the toilet is an important developmental milestone for children. At times, it can be a challenge to teach this skill. However, the following strategies may be helpful in tackling toilet training.

Pre-Requisite Skills

  • Child’s Age. Typically, children at approximately 2-2 ½ years old are ready to begin toilet training.

  • Bladder Control. Bladder control consists of urinating large amounts at one time, and staying dry for long periods of time.

  • Following Instructions. Your child should be able to follow simple, one-step instructions such as “Touch your nose”, “Sit down”, and “Bring me the ball”.

  • Dressing. Your child should be able to partially dress or undress himself.

Preparing for Toilet Training

  • Eliminate Distractions. Start toilet training on a day that is free of other plans and that can be specifically designated to only toilet training.

  • Wear Underwear. Dress your child in underwear and oversized pants with an elastic waistband for toilet training. Wearing underwear (instead of a diaper) will allow your child to recognize more quickly when he is wet versus dry.

  • Increase Fluid Intake. In order to facilitate a quicker pace of learning, it is important to increase the amount of fluid your child drinks during the teaching process. You should encourage your child to drink approximately one cup of preferred fluid every hour.

  • Prepare Rewards. Be sure to have several preferred snacks and activities readily available that will be used to praise your child when he has successfully urinated on the toilet. Reserve these treats for toilet training so that he only ever gets this treat when he urinates on the toilet.

The Training Process

  • Visits to the Toilet. Once your child is wearing underwear, direct him to sit on the toilet approximately every fifteen minutes, for a total of about ten minutes each time. Sitting on the toilet this frequently for extended periods of time will help increase the likelihood that your child will successfully urinate while sitting on the toilet. Make the experience fun by sitting with your child in the bathroom and sing songs, read books, or play with small toys. When your child urinates on the toilet, give a lot of praise and a favorite reward!

  • Dry Checks. In between visits to the toilet, check to see if your child’s underwear is wet or dry approximately every five minutes. Your child should participate in this process as well by feeling the front of his/her underwear.

  • If the underwear is dry: Give a lot of praise, and provide your child with a favorite snack, book, sticker, etc.

  • If the underwear is wet:

  • Say, “Oh no! You’re wet!” with a disapproving facial expression.

  • Walk your child to the toilet and say, “You go pee-pee on the potty”.

  • Sit your child on the toilet for a couple of seconds.

  • Have your child assist in changing into new clothes.

  • Fading the Training. When your child begins urinating on the toilet within the first couple of seconds after sitting down, then begin gradually increasing the frequency of these bathroom visits. Increasing the time by fifteen-minute increments is a good general rule.

Good luck, and have fun!

For more information regarding toilet training, contact the VBCA at 317-848-4774 or

Dr. Breanne Hartley, BCBA-D

Clinical Director of the Verbal Behavior Center for Autism

Recent Posts