Potty Training and Nursery

With the new intake of nursery due in September, many parents may start to feel anxious about their child’s ability to use the potty / toilet when they start there.

Many nurseries have a policy which states that a child must be potty trained before they commence. Whilst this is often achievable for many children, other children are not developmentally ready to potty train before nursery begins. Legally nurseries are not able to insist that your child is potty trained. Many have this included in their policy as they are not able to potty train all the children in their care. But it should not be used to disadvantage those who are not ready to make this transition. If you are worried that your child is not yet ready, speak to the staff in the first instance. Many are very understanding when you explain that your child is not yet ready.

For those who are toilet trained, it can be helpful to work in partnership with your nursery. Here are some points to cover with them:-

  • Do they have the option of using either a potty or toilet? If they only use a toilet, it can be helpful to introduce this concept to your child a few weeks before they move into the setting
  • Ask them what terminology they use to describe the toilet, urinated and voiding. If your child refers to urinating as a ‘wee’ at home, and nursery staff say ‘pee pee’ then the child may not know what is being asked of them. If the nursery use generic terminology, perhaps begin to filter this into your child’s vocabulary a few weeks before they commence. Or better yet, ask the nursery to use your child’s terminology when speaking with them
  • Due to covid restrictions, many nurseries are unable to offer pre-visits to their settings. Ask if they have photos and / or a video showing their environment, and ask that it includes the toilet. Share this with your child before they attend. Children respond well to repetition so showing this regularly can help to make it more familiar
  • Ask nursery to never punish or scold your child if they have an accident – accidents are still normal at this age and a child should never be shamed for such
  • Be prepared: send a wet bag with several changes of clothes to nursery, to they are available should your child have an accident
  • Relax: most children are still learning at this stage and their bladders are still growing. Any concerns always speak to nursery staff in the first instance. Most will be supportive and reassuring.

Potty Training On the Go

When your child begins potty training, I recommend spending the first few days in the home, to allow your child the opportunity to get used to the process in a familiar environment.

However, the time will come, when you have to venture out of the house.

Here are a few tips to help make this as smooth as possible:-


  • Provide underwear. Supplying a pull-up or nappy when you are out and about is likely to confuse your child. It also makes it less likely that they will use the toilet / potty as required. You may wish to use training pants (underwear with a more absorbent core) on long journeys.
  • Accept that accidents are a normal part of the potty training process. Preparing for such is key
  • Place a waterproof car seat cover on your buggy, to ensure it is protected. If it gets wet, simply pop it in the wash.
  • Carry several changes of clothes, some wipes and a wet bag to put wet clothes in. If your child as an accident, do not make a big deal. Just say ‘opps maybe next time.’ Their little bladders and brains are only learning how to sync together.
  • The first few times you leave the house, focus on short journeys and travel somewhere they are familiar – perhaps to a relatives or home of a familiar friend. This helps ensure that they do not feel too overwhelmed in an unfamiliar environment.
  • Offer frequent opportunities for your child to use a toilet or potty – around age 2 – 3 most children can only manage around 2 hours at a time. It can be helpful to set an alarm on your phone, so you can time when to offer toilet opportunities
  • Public toilets can be very overwhelming for a child to use initially – very noisy and lots of people. If possible I would try to avoid using these until potty training is well established. However, this isn’t always possible. It can help to keep some supplies in your bag to make this process a little easier. I recommend some wipes (to make sure the seat is clean) post-it-notes and antibacterial hand gel. If the toilet uses an automatic sensor, it can frighten the child if it goes off to soon. Placing a post-it-note over the sensor prevents this happening until the child is off the toilet. Soap and water are the best way to ensure hands are clean. However having some wipes, coupled with antibacterial gel can be better than nothing, if the toilets happen to have run out of soap.
  • Carry some rewards. If your child uses the potty / toilet when out and about, it is important that they see this as a success. Reward them both verbally, and with a physical reward (perhaps a sticker of their favourite cartoon character). Having these in your bag, ready to hand out can be really useful. Also ensure to praise their efforts. If a child tells you they need to go, but has an accident before they get there, make sure to acknowledge by saying ‘great try’ and offering a sticker for their attempt. Children also love to overhear you praising them to others.
  • Making the environment to use the potty / toilet as familiar as possible to your child, can really
    help their progress. I recommend the Potette Max. This ingenious piece of equipment comes in
    an easy to carry, discrete, slim-line carry bag. It can be used in 3 ways – either as a training seat
    to be used on top of a toilet, as a standalone portable potty (with disposal liners for
    convenience) or as a regular potty. This allows your child to use the potty / toilet wherever they
    are, whilst allowing a familiar environment as home.

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