PT Corner: Straighten Up – Helpful Hints for Posture at School
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?
Featured Guest Columnist: Stacy Menz, DPT, Board Certified Pediatric Clinical Specialist
Stacy, Starfish Therapies’ founder, is a pediatric physical therapist with both a Masters and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Boston University and is a board certified pediatric clinical specialist. She stumbled into this field when she realized she would get to play with kids all day long! In reality, she loves making a difference in the lives of kids and their families. In addition to doing rehabilitative work with kids, she also promotes overall wellness and prevention of developmental delays through education. Stacy is actively involved in her professional organizations and is on the editorial board of Impact, the publication of the Private Practice Section of the APTA, and serves on the education committee of the Pediatric Special Interest Group for the California Physical Therapy Association. Stacy and her colleagues are also actively involved in research and have an article submitted for publication.
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