How to Know When to Ditch the Diapers

Potty training is an exciting -- and potentially stressful -- time for parent and tot alike.

Potty training is a milestone in a toddler’s life that is both eagerly awaited and dreaded by the parents coaching the young one from diapers to big kid undies. While your tot is sure to have a few accidents along the way, waiting to initiate potty training until he is ready will make the transition much smoother. Keep an eye out for signs of readiness to know when to ditch those diapers for good.

Physical Signs of Readiness

Look for fewer diaper changes throughout the day, though they will likely be wetter. This indicates your tot is going less frequently and urinating a lot at one time, rather than many little pees throughout the day. It is a sign of growing bladder control.

Notice if your tot has a dry, clean diaper in the morning or after naps. Again, this is an indication that bowel and bladder control is becoming stronger.

Watch for increased signs of bladder awareness in your kiddo. As he becomes more familiar with what the urge to go feels like, your tot may seem to suddenly require more privacy, as indicated by his running into the corner or other room to go. He may squat, bend over, grunt or show other signs that he is feeling the need to eliminate.

Monitor diaper activity closely, as an increased regularity in your child’s bowel movements is a sign of readiness. If you can suddenly set your watch by his afternoon dirty diaper, it may be time to potty train. Predictability of elimination also makes it easier to direct your child to the potty chair in time to avoid going in his diaper.

Notice when your child shows interest in -- and is able to -- undress himself, particularly, if he is able to pull his pants and underpants down. A child who struggles with his pants is more likely to have frustrating accidents and near-misses at the potty chair.

Emotional & Cognitive Signs of Readiness

Take note of your tot's ability to follow simple instructions. This cognitive understanding of what you are telling him to do is important for him to learn how to use the potty.

Talk to your child and ensure he understands the necessary vocabulary needed for potty training. If he does not know what you are referring to when you instruct him to "make pee-pee in the big boy potty," he is unlikely to be successful at potty training.

Watch for an increased interest in the bathroom behavior of others. He may follow mom or dad to check out what is happening on the potty. Your tyke may also be interested in, and able to imitate, your behavior. This makes it easier for him to translate your actions on the big potty into his own behavior on the small potty.

Motivate your child with your praise. Once it is evident that he desires your approval, over-the-tops cheers and high fives will help encourage him to use the potty.

Watch for signs that he dislikes the feeling of a wet or dirty diaper, as he may be starting to make the connection between urinating and the feeling of wetness. Your kiddo may verbalize -- sometimes proudly, "I pooped!" -- when he has gone to the bathroom, and show a sense of relief or happiness after you change him.


If you begin potty training, only to find that your child is refusing the behavior or is less able to control his bladder or bowels than you thought, the time may not be right. It will be much easier on everybody involved to revert back to diapers and wait a few more months before trying again.