Does your child rush to the toilet as soon as they get home from school? If so, perhaps their school toilet experience isn’t a particularly good one.

Worse still, perhaps they have the odd accident at school – joining the one in five primary school age children who wet themselves at school.

A 2000 Sydney-based study (Sureshkumar et. al) found that nearly 20 per cent of primary school children suffered from urinary incontinence during the day. Constipation was found to be even more common, with up to 30 per cent of children affected.

While there are many causes of incontinence and constipation in children, it is known that lifelong behaviours and attitudes begin early.

There is also little doubt, too, that stressful toilet environments at school can have a negative impact on a child’s developing habits.

In fact, a 2005 Swedish study (Lundblad and Hellstrom) revealed that many children who have negative associations with school toilets adopt unhealthy toilet habits that can persist into adult life.

The impacts don’t stop just at the physical level. It has been also been established that incontinence can have a negative impact on a child’s self-esteem.

To address this sensitive issue, the Continence Foundation of developed the Healthy Bladder and Bowel Habits in Schools program, targeting school communities.

The national program aims to motivate children to adopt healthy bowel and bladder habits for life by empowering them with the education and knowledge to do so.  It also aims to ensure school toilets are clean, private and well-maintained.

The program, called Toilet Tactics, is designed to be fun and engaging. Using familiar, age-appropriate language, children learn how their diet, exercise and “holding on” can affect their bladder and bowel. They also learn how their bladder and bowel work, the correct way to sit on a toilet, and how to clean their hands after each visit.

The program also educates school staff and teachers. They learn that children should be allowed to go to the toilet when they need to, how to recognise the signs that a child may be experiencing bladder or bowel issues, and how to handle these situations sensitively.

So far more than 1000 schools have registered for Toilet Tactics. Ask your school nurse or welfare officer if your child’s school’s one of them, and if not, contact the free National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 or go to


Sureshkumar P1, Craig JC, Roy LP, Knight JF. Daytime urinary incontinence in primary school children: a population-based survey. J Pediatr. 2000 Dec;137(6):814-8.

Lundblad B, and Hellström A. Perceptions of school toilets as a cause for irregular toilet habits among schoolchildren aged 6 to 16 years. J Sch Health. 2005;75(4):125-128