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How do I start EC or toilet learning with a young toddler (12-18 months old)? (AKA “Late Start EC”)

how do i start ec or toilet training with a young toddler 12-18 months old aka late start ec

If you’ve just found out about infant potty training, or elimination communication, and your baby is between 12 and 18 months old, you’re not too late!

You may feel like you’ve missed the boat.

Like the potty train has left the building but forgot you and your little toddler.

But that’s simply not true - you can begin elimination communication at ANY age 0-18 months (and if you’re past 18 months, please check out my book for quick and easy non-coercive potty training and finish rather quickly).

Typically EC for the 12-18 month group is called “Late Start EC.” But I don’t like to call it that here on Go Diaper Free.

All that does is give parents a FOMO complex!

No, you’re not late to the party! You’re here at the PERFECT time to both start and complete EC...during the Montessori sensitive period for toilet learning. Score!

Today I answer one concerned reader’s question about starting toilet learning at 14 months old, and I’ll share my tips for starting EC during the 12-18 month age today!

Q: I’ve been trying to teach my cute 14 months boy to use the potty for about a month now. The morning poop goes reasonably well, but when it comes to peeing he just can’t be bothered. Got no problem going around in wet pants. We end up reading books with him for ages while he sits on the potty holding his pee just so he can spray it over or wet himself later on. Feels like the potty has become the focal point of our shared lives. How do we make him go to the potty and ask for our help when he wants to pee? I think half of the city water consumption goes to our washing machine…Thanks a bunch! ~Tamar, Gal (hubbie) and Noam, Pardes-Hanna, Israel

A: Hey Tamar, Gal, and Noam! Thanks for writing in and sharing your Elimination Communication photo with us:

How do I start EC or toilet learning with a young toddler (12-18 months old)? AKA Late Start EC
the son of two marine biologists

I’m certain that EVERYONE across the world appreciates this photograph! ECing a toddler can be so much fun…but how to start?

Most of the time, that just isn’t fun, and many give up and just wait til later to potty train (usually very, very timidly).

So, in this post, I’m going to share with you exactly how to start Elimination Communication with a young toddler (ages 12-18 month) and how to prevent many of the problems you’re experiencing (you can use these tools to correct them, as well).

Some call this “Late Start EC” but honestly that just makes people feel like failures. Like they missed some proverbial boat.

I’ll call it “Starting EC Older”. Because it’s never too late to start.

But to more personally address a few of your questions first, Tamar:

1. Those brain waves haven’t yet connected and he’s just plain too busy to mind peeing himself at this age; see below for how to start EC with him the right way so that this is lessened.

2. Reading books for “ages” on the toilet won’t do any good whatsoever. If he’s on there and hasn’t gone within 3 minutes, get on with your day and prompt again when it’s time again. If you are certain he needs to go, tell him to do his business so you can get back to playing. Ditch the books and toys in the potty area. They will only encourage him to play…not pee.

3. Pottying is the focal point of your lives and that definitely needs to shift or nothing will get accomplished! Please continue reading for more on how to start EC with your toddler in the most efficient, sensible way.

Tweaking Observation Time for a Toddler – Starting EC Older

Starting EC with a newborn is a lot different than starting with a walking young toddler.

Obviously, the newborn just lays there. The toddler does not. Making naked time a bit trickier…and messier.

Also, the newborn can become conditioned to pee or poo on your Cue noise. A young toddler has thoughts of his own, and a brain that can’t really maintain those long-term, repetitive tasks until about 14-18 months (when they are finally able to remember and sing songs…if they’re verbal yet).

Newborns don’t throw tantrums, toddlers do. Newborns won’t withhold poop, toddlers will. Newborns are less into feeling wet than a toddler who doesn’t mind because there’s more important things to do.

The first step to starting an EC practice with any 0-18 month old baby/toddler is observation time…and even very young toddlers can be a challenge to observe.

The key is having a plan of action to follow. (And to use Tiny Trainers in blue or purple so you can instantly see when they’re wet and record their timing!)

My book comes with a Hybrid Plan for babies who are in the 12-18 month range who are very active. Otherwise, you just start with plain ole EC. But for the more active group, the Hybrid Plan is loosely outlined below. Again, this is detailed in my book.

1. SCHEDULE DIAPER-FREE DAY (1-2 DAYS STARTING ABOUT A WEEK FROM NOW)

2. IN THE MEANWHILE, EASE YOUR BABY INTO EC EVERY SINGLE DAY for ONE WEEK with the 4 Easy Catches + 30 min of time daily without a diaper

3. THE ACTUAL DIAPER-FREE 1-2 DAYS (AFTER THE 1 WEEK OF GETTING USED TO THE BODILY FUNCTIONS) - during this time you demonstrate moving to the potty with every single pee

4. AFTERWARD – MAINTENANCE! Move to underwear during all daytime hours and a diaper back-up at night.

Teaching the Building Blocks of Potty Independence…starting now

Though EC is primarily about two-way communication, and is not considered potty training, there is inevitable teaching involved.

In the process I shared above, you’ll see many examples of teaching the building blocks of potty independence (such as how to sit, and how to get yourself over to the potty, etc.).

Teaching is a valuable tool and couples with discipline. Pottying isn’t exactly a negotiable thing. We either teach them to continue pottying in their diapers or we teach them that, hey, now we’re shifting to using the potty.

Any in between state should not last long, for everyone’s sake!

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition…Consistency, Consistency, Consistency…and the Crazy, Non-linear Learning Curve

With a toddler, you have to repeat and be consistent.

The learning curve looks very non-linear when you’re working with a toddler, younger or older. You have to be repetitive and consistent with toddlers, because believe it or not, they are learning (although it may not look like it sometimes!).

Special Challenges May Require a Re-set and Gentle-yet-firm-Discipline

Some toddlers are just plain energetic and spunky and, at times, totally berzerk-o.

To get the idea across, you both might need to take a break from EC by doing a “re-set” and then starting the above process again. The exact instructions for the re-set are on my private support Forum that comes with the book.

But what I will share here is the gentle-yet-firm-discipline can also help you a ton in this learning process.

You must be (or at least feign being) confident, you must take charge, and you must turn the boat in the other direction. Your little munchkin will follow suit.

Remain matter-of-fact AND gentle (a sublime balance, for sure).

And, read this post of mine that shares how to help a child sit on the potty who really doesn’t want to.

If the pants continue to be wet from months 12-18…what to expect, what to do

Here’s my advice (again, from my private support forum) on what to expect and what to do:

When starting with a toddler one MUST do the 1-2 day naked time of teaching.

And from then on YES the pants and undies will probably be soiled and wet for a while, could even be a couple of months, so use the proper back-up for YOUR nerves and stress level to be under control, while continuing to work the process.

When the misses occur, LEARN SOMETHING from it and do NOT let your stress show. Communicate in simple short phrases. Have them help clean up instead of playing with the pee.

At 9 months when I was sick of the diapering struggle our son had wet Gerbers for like 4 months!! He eventually got it (brain caught up).

But in the meanwhile we gave him tools such as how to run over to the potty, how to sit on his own, and we stayed consistent. It was better than using diapers for us, and I had to keep my patience level in check…constantly.

33 Tips for Starting Elimination Communication Older

You can get access to 33 tips and much more, including my private video library and private support forum, by getting my book so you can start EC with your young toddler the right way, right away, and avoid all the headache that most folks get when winging it off of fragments of info from the Internet or books.

Two other related questions…

Just a little note that two other mamas also sent in similar questions that I wanted to address right here:

“I personally need tips on ec’ing the older baby/toddler. We started at 8ish months as she was signing so well. She can now sign potty and tell me if her diaper is dirty. But I’d like to know how to tell when she needs to pee. We did the naked time for a few days and she didn’t seem to have any cues for that.

I need any and all advice on starting really late with EC. I’ll definitely start earlier with the next one! DD is now almost 14 months old and I’d love to move forward but am at a bit of a standstill.” ~Bethany H., Travelers Rest, SC, USA

My Answer: Hey Bethany! See all the above and add in some reading at this episode on how to get your child signaling again. If you’re still having problems, best to hop onto my forum and we can work more personally on the challenges you’re both facing!

“I attempted a late start with ecing my son, he was 6 months at the time, and I was unsuccessful. I would like to know how do you begin EC or toilet learning with a 14 month old? Are there any books or resources you can recommend?” ~ Megan S., Cincinnati, OH, USA

My Answer: Hey Megan! Yes, Infant Potty Training by Laurie Boucke and The Diaper-free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh both have tips for starting with a toddler. Unfortunately, at the time those books were written, the information available was very limited and many parents had to EC their children for far longer than even 3 years because there was no wrap-up involved. Also, many toddlers learned to pee on the floor.

Through the research on my Forum with actual parents of toddlers who are practicing late-start EC, I’ve since updated my book with new information. I would (not to toot my own horn, but, hey, I believe it) highly recommend my book and forum for anyone who wants to learn more about toilet learning with a 14 months old and how to begin EC at 14 months.

Thanks Tamar, Bethany, and Megan for your wonderful questions!

I hope this post helps you, and others, start Elimination Communication with your 12-18 month young toddler with ease, grace, and confidence!

Have you had any experience with late start EC that you’d like to share? Or something you learned from this post? Please post them in the comments, below.

Thanks….xx Andrea

PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)

Andrea Olson

About Andrea Olson

I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my husband and 5 children (newborn to 8 years old) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)

13 Comments

  1. Avatar Daniel on January 27, 2021 at 9:46 am

    Hi! We’re six weeks away from 18 months and I’ve just listened through several of your podcasts (thank you!!) and done a few days of observation time. I hear you saying start EC anywhere up to 18 months…but just wanted to confirm, if we’re so close to 18 months, should we move forward with EC now or just start with potty training…or just wait to get closer to 18 months? We’ve mostly used cloth diapers and we’re fine to keep waiting. Our kiddo dislikes diaper changes, so that’s why I’m exploring other options.

    • Avatar Daniel on January 27, 2021 at 11:59 am
      • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on February 1, 2021 at 1:23 pm

        Happy you found it! 💕

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on February 1, 2021 at 1:22 pm

      In my book there is a Hybrid plan that might be perfect for your little one. It is a mixture of EC and potty training 😊

  2. Avatar Elizabeth B. on January 27, 2021 at 6:11 pm

    Thank you for this episode!! I “started” EC at 7 months and 11 months, but quickly gave up both times because my daughter was so mobile and active. I felt like I couldn’t keep up with her and the messes. At 13 months, I decided to try again after you did the New Year’s Challenge. I’d forgotten all about the Hybrid plan! This was exactly what I needed to feel like EC would be possible for us. We did two days of observation. They were exhausting. And I felt like I didn’t know any more about my daughter’s potty habits than before. I was beginning to question myself again when this episode popped up. The short summary of the whole hybrid plan, plus your stories about your own kids and other kids reminded me that this is a long process, not something that can be mastered in 2 or 3 days. And it reminded me that part-time EC is still EC. My daughter loves to learn new things, but she has been resisting the potty a lot. So, we have been working on the Easy Catches, transition times, and just a few hours of focused diaper-free time. I know things will probably move even more slowly this way, but it’s helping me to stay more relaxed. We haven’t caught her pee in the potty yet, but we have caught her daily poop two days in a row! With her constipation struggles, that has made me really confident that we have finally found the right way to move forward. Thank you for the help!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on February 1, 2021 at 1:29 pm

      Happy to help!

      Congrats on all your progress so far!🙌🙌

  3. Avatar Neenu on January 31, 2021 at 2:25 pm

    Hi..my baby is 8 months and she never sits in the potty chair..so what can I do

  4. Avatar Claribel on February 3, 2021 at 12:14 pm

    I started EC at birth, I was very successful catching pee and poo the first months, to the point that I was annoyed with the nightwakings, he would grunt and not go until I took him to the sink, then I went back to work, I was part time EC, then I stopped at around 9 months because he could never sit still. Now at 13 months he is seeking privacy to poo, I want to start again with the hybrid plan but I feel he is still too young, being in the toilet is stressful he wants to put his hand in the toilet, takes the wet diapers from the bin, takes out things from the garbage, I have tried letting him play, saying no, taking bins out of his reach, but then, how is he going to dispose his wet cloths on his own? I feel lost, do you have any suggestions?

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on February 3, 2021 at 7:05 pm

      Do you have my book? The moderator and coaches in Might Network will be able to help you further, but for now, I would start by doing some observation time and/or just doing the easy catches. 💕

  5. Avatar Elizabeth B. on February 3, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    For the wet diapers, I keep the bin in the laundry room just outside of our bathroom. When we are in the bathroom, I do try to limit distractions. My daughter likes to play with the toilet paper, though, so I have to be very consistent with redirecting her to the purpose of potty time. Once she potties (or just sits on the toilet for a bit), then she takes her wet diaper out of the bathroom to the bin in the laundry room before washing hands. It works like a charm. No playing with the diaper, but she still knows that she is expected to clean up. Maybe put the bin just outside the bathroom if you don’t want it too far away. Think about what you want your baby to do while in the bathroom, and very consistent that this is how it goes. Kids actually feel safer and more in control when there are firm boundaries. And when they feel safe and in control, they are ready to learn more than we could ever imagine that they will learn. I’m cheering for you!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on February 3, 2021 at 7:09 pm

      Love this! Thanks for sharing. I totally agree, firm loving boundaries.

      • Avatar Erica Wilson on February 24, 2021 at 4:17 pm

        Hi, my daughter is 15 months old and we have been doing barenaked method for a few days now, I have just learned to just do that for observation from listening to your podcast. The first day she peed all over the floor and yesterday and today she been holding her pee. She held her pee for 4 hrs.. she was doing the potty Danica and crying and I was holding her conforming her, telling her its okay baby pee pee goes in the potty. She is having a lot of anxiety. I did put a diaper on her and she relieved her self. Please help!!

        • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on February 25, 2021 at 11:33 am

          Hi! It sounds like you jumped right in after listening to my podcast, which I LOVE! Do you have my book? Or have you downloaded my free easy start guide off my website, http://www.godiaperfree.com.

          It really lays the framework for observation time and all the details to get you on the road to success. What I suggest is making sure you are telling your little one what is going on, so they know, and only offering the potty when you notice them signal they need to go.

          We definitely don’t want your little one to be anxious. So make sure to join my Mighty Networks group with the code at the back of the book. This will give you access to my certified coaches as well! 💕

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