"Each Child is Ready at Their Own Time"
Sometimes parents will take the first sign of potty training readiness as a green light to start the process full on. But, there are lots of times when toddlers show interest in potty training or show a few of the signs, but they just aren't quite ready to give it their all. The best approach for this situation is to keep watching for cues from your child and keep working on things like awareness, dressing skills and learning the vocabulary of using the toilet. Starting too early can lead to frustration and stress. And that's not all.
For instance, you may have heard that if you try to start too early, the process can take longer. Most of the time, this is true. Some parents have success with early training (even starting when their children are just a couple of months old), but for the most part it's the parents who are trained to watch for cues that the child needs to go and to physically take them, remove their clothes, put them on the potty and take care of all wiping and clean-up. (To me, there's not much difference between a child who trains early like this or one who is still in diapers -- the only difference is really the parent and the impact on the environment.) This is great if it works for you and you're keeping this positive and are not punishing or reprimanding your child for accidents. If this is the case, then there's nothing wrong with early training. For busy or working parents or parents who want their children to do this independently from the start, waiting for all the signs will yield the shorter potty training time and more consistency.
While you are waiting, there are things that you, your child care providers and the other caregivers in your child's life can do to promote readiness. Self-help skills are one important area where practice makes perfect. Give your child plenty of opportunities to try dressing himself. Practice all the steps of handwashing after each diaper change and at other times during the day. Vocabulary is an important part of this process as well, and better language skills will make communication during the period easier. Give your child lots of words to use when messes and accidents occur. Talk about what it takes to clean things up -- towels, washcloths, soap, water, wiping, laundry basket. During diaper changes and your own (or a sibling's) toilet trip, talk about what's going on and use the words you would want to hear from your own child.
These practices don't necessarily mean that you are starting potty training, but they do mean that you are helping your child develop the skills and awareness to take those first steps eventually. You are helping them connect the dots. Remember, too, that readiness may come at age 3 or it may come much earlier. Watch for the signs, rather than a date on a calendar.