Mother and Baby

How to potty train boys

Potty training boys

Potty training boys can be a stressful experience. As well as getting them to sit down on the potty, you then need to teach them how to pee standing up, so we’ve come up with a few expert toilet tips to make the whole experience a lot easier.

When to start potty training boys: 

On average, boys are ready to be potty trained a few months later than girls. Their communication skills are less developed at the same age and they’re more active, making them less likely to stop and take time out to use a potty. But all children are different and those with older siblings may be ready as early as 18 months, while others may be as late as four years.

From around age two, start looking for the signs that he’s ready to start potty training:

  • Can he tell you his nappy’s wet?
  • Is he interested in toilets, potties and wees?
  • Can he follow simple instructions?
  • Will he sit quietly in the same place for two minutes?
  • Can he pull his trousers up and down?
  • Does he exhibit good bladder control and go for two hours without weeing?

If the answer to any of these is ‘no’, it’s probably better to wait a little longer. If the answers are ‘yes’, then he’s ready.

Potty training is a new experience for little boys and it can be scary. Getting the timing right is crucial. Avoid potty training if there’s something else big going on in his life, like a new baby, new nursery or house move. Many parents also wait till the summer to train boys as, if you have a private garden, they can run around naked and practise their aim against an unsuspecting tree marked with tape. 

How to potty train a boy:

Toddlers learn by imitation so instigate an open-door policy and encourage him to watch his dad or older brothers going to the toilet. However reluctant Dad might be, encourage him to start talking about weeing and pooing with his son, and you can explain that Daddy uses the toilet differently to Mummy. Swap nappies for pull-ups and encourage him to take them on and off himself when he’s getting dressed.

He needs to feel like a big boy so let him choose whichever pants he wants, whether it’s boxers, briefs, ones with trains on or his favourite cartoon character. 

If he seems to be taking all this in his stride, it’s time for a special shopping trip. If possible, make this a boys-only affair with Daddy taking him out for some special man time. But, whether it’s you or Dad who takes him, make sure he knows that this is a big deal and talk about the outing before it actually happens. He needs to feel like a big boy so let him choose whichever pants he wants, whether it’s boxers, briefs, ones with trains on or his favourite cartoon character. That way, he’ll want to keep them as clean as possible. He might end up soiling several in the first few days so, to avoid running out, buy between seven and ten pairs to start off with.

During the early stages of potty training, expect to take him to the bathroom or the potty every hour or so and encourage him to go, rather than waiting for him to tell you. Look out for signs he needs a wee or a poo like hopping, holding his bottom or concentrating on something that’s not immediately apparent. At the beginning, teach him to sit on the potty for both wees and poos, so he can learn the basics without getting distracted with the fun bit of spraying and perfecting his aim. Encourage him to push his penis right down so it’s aimed in the right direction.

Make sure you have several potties at hand – a minimum of one on each floor of your house so you aren’t running around trying to find them in an emergency. Eventually, he’ll be able to go and get the potty and use it for himself, another reason it’s handy to have them within easy reach.

Of course, accidents are inevitable but don’t make a fuss. Calmly clean everything up and remind him to tell you when he needs the toilet next time. To reward successes, start a “treat bag” and fill it with cheap presents like miniature cars, Paw Patrol stickers and bubbles (if you can avoid sweets). When he does go to the toilet and washes his hands, let him choose something from the bag to keep.

Help him to practise his aim by putting Cheerios in the toilet bowl and getting him to try and “sink” them, or get him to cut out toilet paper shapes and practise firing at them.

Once he’s mastered using the potty and toilet, you can move on to standing up. Help him to practise his aim by putting Cheerios in the toilet bowl and getting him to try and “sink” them, or get him to cut out toilet paper shapes and practise firing at them. If your little boy isn't circumcised, make sure he keeps his foreskin retracted when he pees – it can cause wee to spray out, making a mess, as well as trapping urine, leading to infection.

What to buy when potty training a boy:

  • Buy a potty without a urine guard (or if it has one, make sure it can be removed). They protect your bathroom from splashes but they can scrape the penis when he sits down and pain isn’t something that you want associated with toilet training.
  • If he’s struggling to pee standing up, get him his very own training urinal. This can be mounted on a wall or left freestanding.
  • Reading a book on the toilet is a great way to keep little boys entertained and it will help him to relax. Pirate Pete’s Potty Book uses bright fun pictures and a “cheer” sound effect as it takes children through the story of how Pirate Pete learns to use a potty.
  • Most boys aren’t tall enough to reach the toilet to pee so buy a stool that they can climb up onto. They can also use this to reach the sink for hand washing afterwards.
  • These antibacterial potty-training balls are a great alternative to Cheerios and create a fun point of focus for boys who need help with their aim.
  • As well as a potty and a training seat, invest in a travel potty that he can use when he needs to go and you’re out and about. The Pottete travel potty, which can easily be folded down and stored under a buggy, makes an emergency toilet break a no-hassle affair thanks to its disposable bags. As well as a potty, it doubles up as a training seat that can be folded out and fitted onto a public toilet.

Potty training tips for boys:

  • Personalise the potty with stickers from his favourite TV shows.
  • While he’s potty-training, avoid putting him in trousers with a button or zip fly that will take time and concentration for him to undo. Loose-fitting clothes, like jogging bottoms that have an elasticated waist, are the best option.
  • If you have trouble getting him on the toilet, let him choose some food colouring to put in the bowl and get him to wee onto it. He’ll love watching it change colour.
  • Buy pants a size bigger so he can easily get them on and off.
  • Doing poos on the toilet might be trickier than wees. Encourage him to stay sitting by downloading a new game onto an iPad or buying him a new book that’s kept only in the bathroom for toilet times. 

Want more information? Take a look at our comprehensive step by step potty training guide here, have a read of our top tips on how to potty train girls or find the best travel potties on the market here. 

14 things that will probably happen when potty training...

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1. You’ll secretly resent your fellow mums’ success stories

According to his mum, Alfie, from over the road, learned to use a potty when she was 17 months… [Corbis]
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2. You’ll abandon the potty training method your best friend swears works in three days

...and make it up as you go, instead. [Corbis]
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3. You’ll get peed on

As will your carpet. And your bed. And a lot of other porous surfaces in your house. But before long it won’t faze you in the slightest. Is that a good thing? [Corbis]
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4. …And pooed on

Which will teach you to abandon your favourite white shirt for the next few months. [Corbis]
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5. You’ll choreograph a brilliant dance routine

And call it the ‘Potty Party’. For your tot’s eyes only, obvs. [Corbis]
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6. You’ll spend more time in the bathroom than ever before

It can take time to perfect the art of a pee or poo – leaving you to patiently wait, while smiling encouragingly. [Corbis]
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7. You’ll be genuinely excited by your toddler’s bowel movements

‘Brilliant! What a good poo!’ is a phrase you probably never thought you’d say, right? Now it’s one you can only hope to use. [Corbis]
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8. You’ll find poo in all kinds of places

In plant pots, in her car seat – basically in anything that remotely resembles a potty. [Corbis]
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9. You’ll have a new embarrassing story to tell

Whether your tot presents you with a poo in hand when you’ve got friends over for coffee or she goes in the paddling pool at a playdate, get ready for some hilarious/cringe toilet episodes. [Corbis]
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10. Your tot will congratulate you on going to the loo

She’ll have heard it so much that your toddler will soon be the one saying, ‘Good poo, Mummy.’ Just pray it isn’t after you both sit back down in a restaurant after a quick mid-meal loo break. [Corbis]
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11. You’ll use bribery

Chocolate, toys, cash – you’ll try any method in your power to tempt your tot to do her business. [Corbis]
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12. You’ll spend half the day loading the washing machine

…and working that anti-bacterial spray. [Corbis]
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13. You’ll feel bad if it’s not happening…

Have you put her off somehow? Is it too late? Is it your fault? Er, no, no and no. Let go of that guilt, you’re doing your best… [Corbis]
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14. But he’ll get there eventually

And when you look back (and smile), potty training will feel like a distant dream. Now where are those clean trousers..? [Corbis]


Charlotte is an award-winning journalist who's interviewed six Oscar winners, a Greek princess and a Cbeebies presenter.

She's written for GLAMOUR, Vogue, Stylist and The Independent during her career, and, though she writes about beautiful children's clothes, her own two children refuse to wear them.

She likes sunshine and log burners but not at the same time.  


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