Straighten Up

Thursday, 11.08.2016

Photo credit: AlanWat

Investing in the right furniture and school backpack is beneficial to maintaining good posture in your child.

Your child’s posture can mean the difference between him looking like a tired, sluggish kid who is perpetually slumped over, or a self-confident child who stands erect and tall when spoken to. And the backpack, study table and chair that you choose for his daily use could make all the difference in the world to his posture.

The structure of our bodies affects how it functions. Sitting with the wrong posture will strain the neck and shoulders and lead to eyestrain that will make your child more tired at the end of the day. The spine is the foundation for the rest of his body structure. If you allow his poor posture to prevail, gradually your child’s joints and muscles will pay the price, and eventually this will negatively affect his whole appearance and overall well-being.

Poor posture in young children leads to the quicker onset of physical fatigue, places undue strain on ligaments and bones, and also interferes with respiration, heart action and digestion. Because of the softness of children’s bones, continued pressure or a wrong posture can easily deform them. If a child adopts a poor posture for many years, these features risk becoming permanent as the bones harden towards adulthood.

Survey the Study Area

Photo credit: Mads Boedker via / CC BY

Studies have shown that individual characteristics of your child’s study station affect his posture. More often than not, the study table that your child uses is also shared by other members of the family, which means that it is not ergonomically suited for his still-growing body.

Basically, study tables and chairs should not be too deep to the extent that your child’s legs dangle in mid-air when he is writing or reading. If his feet cannot reach the floor, place a stool under them so that his thigh and calves are at about a 90° angle. If a table is too high, your child will have to lean forward to read and this will cause shoulder, muscle fatigue and neckache.

The proven ergonomically-ideal desk should have an inclined worktop angle of 40° that lets the child read and write with a straight back and neck which will discourage hunching altogether, especially over extended periods. You don’t need science to tell you that less hunching means less aches and strain in the back, neck and shoulder areas.

This does not mean you have to throw out your existing study table; improvise by using cushions to prop up books on tables when your child is reading, for example. If the chair is too deep, you can also place some cushions to ensure that his back is supported and kept straight.

When he is working at the computer monitor, it should be tilted at a 30° degree and placed at least 50cm from his eyes. Also, while your child is using the keyboard, ensure that his upper arm and forearm are at a 90° angle.

Some specialist furniture companies manufacture inclined tabletops that can be adjusted to the recommended 40° angle for your child to do his work while keeping his neck and back straight. Parents may even purchase tables, chairs and computer stands that are designed to accommodate the natural development of a child up until he is a teenager.

Your 10-Point Backpack Check

“These days, young children can carry textbooks with a weight of up to 9kg. Therefore, it is more important than ever for parents to look for a good bag that has firm back and moulded support for their children whose young muscles and joints are still developing,” says Dr David Tio, osteopath at the Osteopathic Treatment Centre.

Indeed, it is not uncommon to see a child walking home from school with a huge backpack that’s almost as big as his entire frame! This raises the question of how much is too much for such a young body to physically carry and what can parents do to ensure bags are well-constructed and carried correctly to minimise risk of strain?

Here are 10 suggestions:

Photo credit: woodleywonderworks via / CC BY

  1. A backpack should distribute the weight load evenly and safely and exert minimal pressure and stress on the neck, shoulder and lower spine. Ideally, the backpack should be designed to fit around the spine to support and maintain the spine’s natural curve.
  2. If the weight rests correctly, your child is able to stand upright with shoulders back.
  3. Backpacks should not be loaded to more than 15 percent of the child’s body weight.
  4. The heavier items should be placed at the back of the bag, that is, nearest to the child’s body.
  5. The bag should have wide, padded straps that can be adjusted to the child’s size to fit snugly on the shoulders, and which also serve to act as a shock absorber for the shoulders. Some backpacks are even made of lightweight, waterproof material that wicks perspiration away from the body.
  6. Consider bags with extra straps that can be buckled across the chest or waist as this allows for more even distribution of weight over the child’s upper body.
  7. Teach your child to pack his backpack daily according to his class timetable so that he only brings what is necessary. Also consider renting a locker if such a service or facilities are offered on the school premises.
  8. Choose a backpack that is light and sturdy when empty and make sure it is appropriate for your child’s size.
  9. Choose a bag with extra pockets so he can distribute and organise the items that he needs to carry around.
  10. Take your child schoolbag shopping with you as this is the best way to evaluate the backpack’s suitability for him/her.

    Photo credit: via / CC BY

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