Step 1: Determining Your Child’s Readiness

Many parents are eager to start a toilet training program for their children. However, for some children their parents may be ready to start before their children are ready. Starting before your child displays the necessary readiness signs will most likely increase the amount of time it takes for your child to learn this skill as well as decrease the amount of success your child experiences. Starting too early can also lead to other problems, such as an increase in undesirable behaviors related to the toilet and high frustration levels in the parent.  To ease the toilet training process and ensure that toilet training is a positive experience for everyone involved, it is recommended that parents assess their child’s toilet readiness skills. This is described below:


  • Age: This factor should not be the only one considered when deciding to start a toilet training program. However, it is recommended to wait until after the second birthday to begin considering toilet training. For children with Down syndrome, it has been found beneficial to wait until after the third birthday to begin the process.
  • Bladder control: Your child completely empties her bladder when voiding and remains dry for at least one and one half hours during the day.
  • Predictable stooling patterns: Your child’s bowel movements follow a regular and predictable pattern.
  • Motor skills: Your child demonstrates the abilities to walk to and from the bathroom independently and to pick up objects.
  • Behavior: Your child can sit on the toilet (or potty chair) comfortably for two to five minutes. You may allow your child to look at preferred books or play with preferred toys while sitting on the toilet.
  • Instructional readiness: Your child can follow a few simple directions (i.e. sit down).
  • Indicates needs: Through facial expressions, posturing, gestures, pictures, or words your child indicates the need to go to the bathroom.

Step 2: Determining Your Readiness

Before starting a toilet training program, parents also need to be ready to dedicate the time and effort needed to implement an effective program.  If your child displays the necessary readiness signs, but your schedule does not allow you the amount of time needed to take your child to the bathroom on a consistent schedule every day, you may want to consider waiting to start until your schedule allows time.

Below is a form to help you assess your child’s bladder control, ability to demonstrate a need to go, and voiding pattern. Every thirty to sixty minutes, check your child’s diaper.  Place a checkmark in each corresponding time slot that your child indicated a need to go. Keep the data for two weeks.  If, at the completion of two weeks, the chart shows that your child consistently remained dry for at least one and one half hours, consistently indicated a need to go, and displays a voiding pattern, then your child may be ready for toilet training. If after 2 weeks, the data show that your child does not display the necessary skills, you can decide to continue taking data, or to stop and restart at a later date.


Toilet Training Readiness Data Sheet:

D = Dry   U = Urinated   BM = Bowel Movement   U/BM = If Both

Hour Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7
6:00 am              
6:30 am              
7:00 am              
7:30 am              
8:00 am              
8:30 am              
9:00 am              
9:30 am              
10:00 am              
10:30 am              
11:00 am              
11:30 am              
12:00 pm              
12:30 pm              
1:00 pm              
1:30 pm              
2:00 pm              
2:30 pm              
3:00 pm              
3:30 pm              
4:00 pm              
4:30 pm              
5:00 pm              
5:30 pm              
6:00 pm              
6:30 pm              
7:00 pm              
7:30 pm              
8:00 pm              
8:30 pm              

Step 3: Get Set, Go!

  • Your days should look like this: Wake up, take off wet diaper, go to the bathroom. Put on big boy underwear or big girl panties.
  • Go to the bathroom when you anticipate the need to urinate or to stool. (Refer to your Toilet Training Readiness Data Sheet).
  • Make it fun! Allow your child to read a favorite book or play with a favorite toy while sitting on the toilet.
  • Use a visual schedule to reinforce verbal directions to your child.
  • Use a reinforcer.
  • Change your reinforcers from time to time.


The information featured in this section is reproduced via an exclusive arrangement with National Down Syndrome Society [ONLINE] Available at