Sign Language for Toilet Training

by Dana Tuffelmire

There comes a time for moms and dads when changing their infant's diaper turns into a wrestling match with an uncooperative toddler. While toilet training is a huge accomplishment in a toddler's life and a victory scored for his parents, many wonder when and how to begin the process. Since young toddlers are in the early stages of talking, some parents find that teaching their child to use simple signs to convey their needs is a helpful tool toward toilet training success.

Toilet Training Readiness Signs

According to the Zero to Three website, many toddlers begin expressing an interest in using the toilet around 18 months while others aren't ready until age 3. Toilet training readiness depends on a number of factors, including the ability to stay dry for at least two hours, a desire to use the toilet and a way to communicate the need to go. Parents magazine adviser Linda Acredolo, PhD, believes some toddlers are even ready to begin training at 12 months old. She suggests that signing gives toddlers the ability to communicate the need to go before they can speak the words.

Benefits of Using Signs to Toilet Train

When you teach your toddler signs to communicate with you, she becomes more in control of her own toilet training. If she has to go, she can let you know, reducing potential frustrations stemming from miscommunications between parent and child. Children who learn to sign before they can talk could become toilet trained sooner because the communication barriers are down. And, the earlier your child is diaper-free, the more money you'll save on diapers.

Helpful Signs for Toilet Training

Dr. Acredolo recommends teaching your toddler several simple signs to use while potty training, including the signs for potty, more, all done, wash and good job. There are many published books, web sites and videos designed to teach babies and toddlers age-appropriate signs. Introduce signs to your tot in engaging, fun ways while repeating them often at the appropriate times. Praise and encourage your child when she repeats the signs back to you.


Parenting techniques regarding discipline, learning and general child-rearing often stir up controversy and baby signing for toilet training is no exception. Some believe that children benefit greatly from being able to communicate with signs. Others feel that products and videos touting the benefits of toilet training using baby signing are just out to make a buck off of parents while providing them with questionable help. Parents should educate themselves and employ the potty training method that suits their toddler best, whether it involves sign language or not.

About the Author

Dana Tuffelmire has been writing for DMS for three years. She taught elementary school for seven years and earned a master’s of education degree with a specialization in literacy. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two sons. Her dream is to one day write a children's book.

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