Going to the Toilet

From the early stages of toilet training right up to teaching your child to aim straight.

Click on the sections below for quick access to each area or scroll down the page to see all the content.

Toilet training is the bane of every parent's life; weeks of being caught short, happy (and not so happy) accidents in awkward places, and endless loads of washing. 

Some children (and parents) are lucky and manage to master the technique in a matter of days, but for the rest of us patience is key.

Most children do not develop control over their bowel and bladder until they start nursery school.  There is little point in trying to teach a child to use the toilet if they don't realise they actually need!

If your child is not yet fully toilet trained then speak to your Health Visitor or GP, remember it is not uncommon for children to still have accidents at night at this stage.

Independent toileting is a very complex task with lots of complex steps.  By 3 years your child may be able to use the toilet during the day with few accidents, but still need help with wiping and managing their clothes.

It is important your child feels secure when they are sitting on the toilet.  Using a toilet step or a sturdy box under their feet will make them feel safer and therefore concentrate on the task at hand.  A toilet seat insert may also help your child feel safer.

Practice and Patience; as with all new skills this task will take time to learn so don’t expect your child to master it straight away.  Break the task down into its separate parts (e.g. managing clothes, wiping or washing hands etc) and only tackle one part at a time with you offering support with other aspects of the task.

As with any new challenge, the use of a reward chart can be very motivating for a child.  You can set a goal at the beginning of the week or fortnight around what your child is to complete (e.g. final wipe without physical assistance); if they achieve success with this they receive a sticker for their chart which can be used for a reward at the end of the set time period.

Ask nursery for their advice as they have a large amount of knowledge and experience in this area.

General Toileting Advice

Completed toilet training is when a child can get on and off the toilet, manage their clothes, wipe their bottom, flush the toilet and wash their hands without any adult help or supervision.

However, with this ultimate goal in mind a lot of hard work, patience and practice will be needed to achieve and master each step of the process, by you and your child together.

ERIC (The Children's Bowel and Bladder Charity) have lots of useful resources around toileting for Parents and Carers as well as Education and Health Professionals. 

Anxiety UK have produced a document called Toilet Phobia: Breaking the Silence, which states the causes of toilet fear are often caused by anxiety, fear, specific experience/trauma or learnt behaviour from someone close.

Bottom Wiping

When teaching a new skill we often start at the beginning.  This can be challenging for children who are struggling to master a skill.  One way of learning a new task while giving your child a sense of achievement is to use the backward chaining technique.  Backward chaining has been found to be particularly useful when learning self-care skills.  It can also be helpful when teaching younger children and those who have difficulty learning new skills.

So what is backward chaining?  You start by breaking the task down into small steps.  You teach your child the last step first, working backward from the goal.  You complete all of the steps except the last one and have your child practice the final step.  Your child will enjoy the success that comes from completing a task.  Once your child has mastered the last step you complete all of the steps except for the last two.  You teach your child the second from last step and they then complete the last step themselves.  Even more success!  You continue like this until you are teaching the first step and your child is completing all the other steps.

This is a particularly useful technique to use when teaching a child how to get dressed or undressed.


All mothers of sons will understand the importance of teaching your child to aim properly.  This is an important skill both from a social acceptance perspective as well as from a hygiene point of view! 

It is important to reinforce this skill from the start.  Try to encourage good habits so if your son is in watching daddy empty his bladder, remind dad not to make this a play opportunity.


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Equipment Ideas

Your child might require additional equipment for toileting. 

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Hand washing is an essential skill for children of all ages.


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