How to Transition a Toddler from Diapers to Underwear

Once your toddler shows signs of potty training readiness, it may be time to begin the process in earnest. The transition from diapers to underwear can be a major hurdle, so it's wise to proceed carefully to ensure a successful outcome. As long as your toddler is ready to train and you keep your interaction positive and encouraging, he should respond willingly to make the move from wearing diapers to using the toilet.

  1. Watch for signs of toilet training readiness in your toddler prior to beginning the training. Common signs include staying dry for about three hours at a time, having the necessary verbal skills to communicate needs and desires, understanding simple requests and showing an interest in training, according to

  1. Purchase new underwear for your toddler after you see signs of training readiness. You might involve your toddler in the selection process to ensure she's excited about underwear and interested in wearing them.

  1. Allow your child to lead the process without pushing or pressuring, advises psychologist Laura Markham of Aha! Encourage potty training by placing a potty seat in every bathroom, asking your little one if he wants to sit on the potty and talking about using the toilet instead of diapers. It may also help motivate your toddler if he watches other family members using the toilet.

  1. Wait until your toddler asks to wear the underwear you purchased together. When she is ready to move to this step, she'll let you know. Until she asks, it's best not to push or you could create resistance from too much pressure.

  1. Dress your child in underwear after he makes a request and indicates his desire to move forward to a more involved level of potty training. Keep your demeanor positive and encouraging as you help your child into his big-boy underwear. Remind him to pay attention to his bodily sensations so he can use the potty before making a mess in his underwear.

  1. Ask your toddler about every 15 minutes if she would like to sit on the potty, suggests physician Mia E. Lang in an article published in the journal "Paediatrics & Child Health." If he says yes, provide any necessary assistance. If he says no, ask again a short time later.

  1. Remain vigilant about supervising your toddler in the first days of wearing underwear. Expect a few accidents. When they happen, help your child matter-of-factly without scolding. Don't worry, he'll soon become more adept at toileting.

  1. Switch back to pull-ups or diapers during sleep times to avoid accidents initially. After your toddler begins using the toilet successfully and reliably throughout the day without accidents, try nap times without diapers first. A child may not stay dry overnight until age 5 or 6, according to the University of Michigan Health System.

  2. Warnings

    Any time your toddler struggles or fights the potty training process, back up and stop pushing. Pressure may create power struggles, which can become negative and even harmful, warns the University of Michigan Health System.

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