You may have heard that children are in nappies longer than they were in previous generations. There has been a steady increase in the age when children become potty trained; it’s risen from two in the 1960s to around three or 3 ½ today*.

There have been reports in the media about kids starting school still in nappies and there’s been an increase in children having accidents during the school day, with the majority of primary school staff seeing an increase amongst 3-5 year olds over the past five years alone**.

Why are children in nappies longer?

So what’s causing this? We asked potty training experts and authors of award-winning book, ‘How to Potty Train’ Judith Hough and Diane Titterton.

Judith Hough and Diane Titterton“There are a number of factors contributing to the rise but, along with many healthcare professionals, we believe that one of the main reasons is the over-use of nappy-style products on children who are at potty training age. This is because they are so absorbent that children can miss the fact that they have had an accident and so not start to learn how to ‘hold on’.

“Nappies have been designed to absorb large quantities of liquid, so children do not feel wet or notice any discomfort, and this seems to delay their urge to be free of nappies or other nappy-style pants. The fact that the potty training age has steadily risen since the sixties and disposable nappies were introduced in 1961 is probably no coincidence.

“Research shows that there is an optimum window, at around the age of two, for a child to become potty trained and that, if this opportunity is missed, it can result in longer and later potty training. However, so many children of this age are still in nappy-style products that this window is being missed.

How to get your child out of nappies and into proper pants

“Here are a few key tips from our book ‘How to Potty Train’ to help get children out of nappies and into proper pants.

“Even before you start potty training, begin getting your child ready by teaching the routine of going to the toilet. Regularly take your child into the bathroom with you to ‘practice’ everything from turning on the light to waving off the poo, washing hands and closing the door.How to potty train

“It’s important not to put off taking the nappy off. Although it can be tempting to wait for a holiday to start potty training, you will reap the benefits if you start when your child is ready. Most children are ready at around the age of two. Research shows that it’s the best time to start and that, if you leave it later, it can actually take longer, as it can be harder to potty train an older toddler who can see the benefits of continuing to use his own ‘mobile toilet’ (a disposable nappy or training pant!)

“Accidents are a key part of learning, so it’s important to stop using nappies and nappy-style pants and put your little one into proper pants. If you want a bit of help with the mess, you can pop in a disposable pad, like a Dry Like Me, to help with the mess – but your child must be able to realise they have had an accident and start to understand and learn.

“Many parents don’t realise there is an alternative to nappy-style disposables for potty training, so they use products that could actually be slowing the process down. When we couldn’t find anything to help us move our potty training children away from nappies and into their own pants we created Dry Like Me potty training pads, which are worn in children’s proper pants but are not designed to hold a full wee – so let them learn from accidents. Independent research has shown they reduce accidents after only one week and they are recommended by health professionals.”

For information on Dry Like Me potty training pads and the book ‘How to Potty Train’ see

*American Academy of Paediatrics 2009

**Research carried out by ERIC (Education and Resources for Improving Child Continence) and the ATL (Association of Teachers and Lecturers) February 2012.