Most official school classrooms have suitable child-sized tables and chairs. At homeschool, many children sit at dining room tables, on adult sized chairs, or even sit on bar stools at kitchen counters. Seating affects posture ~ which affects handwriting.
The main horror statistic is from a US study which found up to 56% of teenage spines were deformed. The culprit was identified as poor posture and extended sitting during growth spurts. So will you rush off to protect your child? Experiments have shown that school lessons in improved posture failed to make a noticeable difference. On the other hand simple changes to school furniture have been shown to make big differences to posture without any training. David Newbound at Familiesonline.
And read here to read what a neurodevelopmental physiotherapist with a special interest in posture has to suggest.
These are some of my suggestions:
- A child’s feet should rest on a flat surface if they cannot reach the ground. Use a small bench, wooden box, telephone directories or ledge if the child’s feet are “floating”. An occupational therapist gave me an excellent idea for a kinesthetic learner (a child who needs to move to learn) ~ tie a thera-band/ stretch band/ elastic exercise band (even a pantyhose?) to the 2 front chair legs so that the child can rest and swing his feet on this.
- The child should sit high enough to have elbows bend at 90 degrees and lie level with the table. Most children sit too low at the table. Place flat cushions on the seat to reach the correct height. I use firm, flat cushions that don’t squash flat.
- If your child has low muscle tone (weak torso muscles – your child slumps, rests head on hand or arm, or lies across the table when working), an excellent idea is to use an inflatable gym ball that is high enough to use as a seat or use a flat-bottomed inflatable cushion on the chair (buy one from a physical therapist). The wobbling ball stimulates the stabilizer muscles and strengthen core muscles. Read here about a teacher who introduced fitness ball seating to her classroom.
- Use a flat seat, not a bucket seat. The child must change the angle of their pelvis from time to time.
- Buy the correct size chair and table. I use a small table and chair next to my school table for the little ones. Perhaps invest in an adjustable computer chair for each child.
- Do some exercises in-between lessons. Roll down, twists, stretches, knee lifts to opposite elbow to relieve stiffness and stimulate the muscles. I also use some brain-gym ideas or fun exercises which call for left/right/ in front/ behind.
- Let your child play outside for a few minutes on the jungle gym. Strong arms and shoulder muscles stabilize the fine motor muscles in the hands and fingers which helps with handwriting. Strong core muscles support the spine and offer the child with the energy to support postural muscles while concentrating on other skills, like writing.
Your child’s seating is very important! See if you need to make adjustments for your younger child. Encourage good postural habits for your children. Their bones, muscles, eyesight and handwriting will improve!