Starfish Therapies

February 12, 2014

Straighten Up: Helpful Hints for Posture at School

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It’s at least halfway through the school year and a great time to think about posture!  More often than not, children tend to pay little attention to their posture while focusing on something else such as school work, television, or video games. Most commonly, you will see them slouching forward, leaning to one side, propping on one or both elbows, propping their head in their hands or even lying their head on the desk while writing or drawing. They may appear unaware of this  when corrected because unlike adults, most kids do not experience back and neck pain related to poor posture. It is also difficult to help them why good posture matters in order to prevent habits that could potentially cause problems later in life.

Tips to Improve Your Child’s Posture:

  • Lead by Example: Draw attention to your own posture and show your child what sitting up tall looks like.
  • Mirror: Using a mirror is a great way to show your child what their posture looks like or what it should look like.  Specifically, having them stand sideways can making slouching more apparent.
  • Chair: The chair your child uses can make a huge difference in their posture.  It is important for their feet to rest flat on the floor and that their knees are bent roughly 90 degrees.  It is also important to look at the length of the seat.  If the back of the chair does not touch your child’s back while their feet are on the ground place a pillow in between the space for support.  If the only chair you have to use is so high that your child’s feet are dangling in the air, place a stool or wooden block underneath for their feet to rest flat on.
  • Desk:  The height of the desk is also important.  It should hit slightly above your child’s belly button in the middle of their trunk.  If it is too low, your child will slouch forward to reach their work.  If it is too high, your child will have to elevate their shoulders towards their ears raise their arms up to reach what they are doing and will therefore, be overusing certain neck and shoulder muscles.  If your child is too low at the table, you can place pillows or cushions under their bottom but then again may need to place something under their feet so they do not hang.
  • Set Limits:  It is important to set time limits on computer/television/video game sessions.  Try limiting bursts of these activites to 20 minutes at a time.  After 20 minutes, encourage your child to get up and move around for a while.

If you have been working on your child’s posture and do not see improvement or if your child complains of pain or seems unable to sit still for periods of time, they may have some underlying muscle tightness or weakness that makes a good, neutral posture very difficult to achieve and they may need some targeted strengthening or stretching.

How do you work on your kiddo(s)’ posture?

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3 Comments »

  1. Great ideas, thanks Stacy. The other issue I find with chairs in general and particularly at school is that they promote a posterior pelvic tilt. We know that this position impacts negatively on the 4 inner core muscles, thereby forcing us to use power muscles for posture instead which leads us down the road to stiffness and pain. Research is now indicating this position also impairs upper extremity function as well as balance. So in addition to your suggestions, I get my clients at school to use a small, solid wedge under their ITs (elementary school) or fold their coat/sweatshirt and use it as a roll under their ITs (high school) or even find a slightly higher chair that positions hips slightly higher than knees. Bringing the pelvis just past 90 degrees promotes activation of the postural muscles from the inside-out which increases endurance and results in improved posture.

    Comment by Shelley Mannell PT — February 13, 2014 @ 4:04 pm | Reply

    • I completely agree. We are constantly working with teachers to counteract the negative impact of the ‘scoop’ chairs on kids posture. I wish they would bring back those old flat bottom, flat back chairs we had in school! Thanks for your comment!

      Comment by Starfish Therapies — February 13, 2014 @ 4:14 pm | Reply


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