At what age should I start potty training?

Salaam (Peace),

When should I start potty training?

Almost every concerned parent, at the preschool where I worked, asked this question. This is one milestone we all are waiting for. That blessed day when we don’t have to see, change, or buy another diaper!
For some of us, there is little choice. We have to leave our child at a daycare or with a sitter who only accepts children who are potty trained. Some of us are just ready to get it over with. Especially, when helpful relatives or friends question us. “He’s still not potty trained…?” Comparisons to their potty training whiz kid, with things like, “Oh Yusuf was using the potty all by himself by the time he was…” are not helpful. So when should you start?

1. Start when he is able.

Able – means that the child is physically capable of using the bathroom. Specifically can the child hold their urine? You will have clues that the child is able to “hold their urine,” when they wake up and their diaper is dry. As they get older they will also stay dry for longer periods of time. Some children don’t have the physical capability even though they understand the concept. It is cruel to try to force a child to do anything that is beyond their capability.

2. Start when they understand.

Understand – means they can recognize the physical cues and understand that the cues mean it is time to use the potty. You can help by teaching them their physical cues. For example, you might see your child doing the “potty dance” hopping back and forth, and bouncing around. Ask the child, “do you need to use the potty.” Follow up by putting them on the pot. If they go you can tell them, “see you did need to use the potty and you did it!” Every child has cues and you will learn these together. Some kids do the dance, others run and stand in a corner. But these actions show a growing awareness of their body’s cues.

3. Start when they can communicate.

Communicate – means they can express that they need to use the potty. This is not always verbal! It may be pulling your hand, or going to the bathroom, reaching or pointing to themselves. Hopefully, they will be able to tell you. But if they can’t, as long as they can communicate the need to you, then they are ready.

4. Start when you have the time.

Time – means that you are not rushed. You have the time to consistently and patiently work with your child to guide them on this journey. Yes, part of, “is my child ready” depends on you. Are you ready? You have to be ready to take your child EVERY time you see the cues or he tells you that he needs to go. There will be a lot of false alarms. Recognize that potty time might be fun time. Especially if you have one of those fun, musical, talking toilets. (Which I don’t recommend!) But you have to take him each and every time he requests it.

5. Start when they want to.

Want – means when the child tells you. “I want to use the potty.” They might say it in different ways. But they might begin to show an interest in sitting on the potty or changing their own diapers. They sometimes begin to feel like, I want this nasty thing off of my body. Many children will sometimes say, “I boo boo.” And they will look at you as if to say, get it off. If it bothers them then they are ready to learn. But this is the one that is optional. Some children don’t mind being dirty at all. So we can’t wait for that child to “want” to potty train. If they are able, can communicate, and they understand, then they are ready.


Can I start before all of these steps.

Absolutely, and sometimes you have no choice! But these 5 conditions are the things that will make it much easier. My personal advice from 3 children and even more as a preschool teacher is: Prep your child with books and videos and talks before you start, Reward outrageously (not with food) but with songs, cheers, stickers and overwhelming enthusiasm and Be consistent. And even then it might not work if the child just isn’t ready. Especially if they’re not physiologically ready. And if the child is too resistant or not able, don’t continue to force them. Back off give it a few months or until they mature a little more and then try again. Here’s the advice my mom gave me when I was completely frustrated. She asked me patiently. Have you ever met a (normal, healthy) adult who couldn’t use the bathroom? Of course not. That’s because eventually, they will get it, everybody does!
I am including a few recommendations for potty training. The first is a good book on potty training techniques which work for many parents. The other books are some of my favorites. I used these books to read to toddlers to help them get used to the idea. (Note: These are affiliate links and I may receive a commission – at no additonal cost to you- when you buy products that I am genuinely excited about.)

This book is for parents, And by the way Dr McCoy, if you get a chance you should definitely check out her awesome blog:

This book is an oldie but a goodie, I love the line…he sat and sat and sat and sat…. Yes, Al Hamdulillah he sat! lol


These 2 are newer but the kids really enjoyed them…

While the first book is funny, this book is very sweet.

One more for you to try. I could go on and on. I love reading to children and I love picking out books for you to enjoy with your little ones. They learn so much when we read to them!



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