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Potty Training and your Preschooler

A common question parents of preschoolers ask themselves is, Should my child be potty trained by now? “The average age at which a child will start to show interest in learning to potty train is around 2 years, but it’s a bell shaped curve -- some will go earlier and others not until 3 or even 4,” says Mark Wolraich, MD, the CMRI/Shaun Walters professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

While you and your child are busy preparing for preschool, her mind and body are growing and developing. Jenn Berman, PhD, family psychologist and author of SuperBaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Headstart in the First 3 Years, says in order to tackle the toilet, watch for these signs that she is really ready:

Mentally. A child’s brain has to be able to receive the full bladder message, and the child has to be mature enough to know to hold his pee and poop in until he gets to a toilet, Berman says. The child also needs to understand the connection between the urge to pee and poop and the potty chair. Although this generally occurs between ages 18-22 months, it just happens later for some kids, as they get closer to approaching preschool age.

Physically. The child needs to be able to climb up onto the toilet by using a stool and with a hand from mom or dad. He needs to know to stop playing, and stay focused until he gets to the toilet. The child also must have the motor skills necessary to take off his clothes, and then relax and go.

Developmentally. A child needs to be ready for autonomy and say, “I want to do this myself,” Berman says. She needs to be independent enough to take care of her own potty needs.

Socially. A child needs to be aware that others are using the toilet and want to imitate that behavior, which can happen once they hit preschool and why sometimes, a second child may learn faster than her first-born sibling.

When a child has developed enough to reach these milestones, it's up to the parents to watch for signs that their little one is ready for the next step.

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