Kids ergonomics when learning from home!
2020 (and 2021) has seen most primary and early secondary school kids predominantly learning from home. While some of us have a Study at home that can be set up ergonomically, it is much less likely that there are two, three or four suitable areas in the house! With increased demands for our home to become a learning or work space, some changes will need to be made in order to do this successfully, particularly for children. This is where we talk about kids ergonomics…
Ergonomics, in part, is the study of understanding how our body interacts with the environment around us. Good ergonomics is the process where we optimise how our body functions in the environment. When we achieve optimal ergonomics we will have a positive interaction with how we work in our surroundings. And for our body, this means less strain and fatigue and a greater ability to concentrate on the tasks at hand for longer periods.
Kids’ growing bodies also suffer from strain if they are required to sit in less than ideal environments for long periods of time. So, we want to provide you with some useful and practical tips to help their bodies cope with the extra load that can arise when learning from home!
Tools to help achieve good posture
Being at an appropriate height for the desk or dining table helps young children avoid neck and shoulder issues. A simple foam lift, such as a Tot Riser, Bottoms Up cushion or Posture Wedge cushion can give kids the height and correct pelvic tilt to access their work and avoid strain.
Next add in some foot support to keep hips and knees level and help ‘ground’ your child.
Place a box or some books in front of the chair so that little feet don’t dangle. The optimal height is so that knees are level with hips (knees can be a fraction lower if a greater pelvic tilt is required to maintain the normal curve in the lower back).
For older kids, or anyone that may benefit from more sensory feedback while they are sitting, we highly recommend also using a flexible Pilates ball as a lumbar support in a rigid chair.
It is a great way to provide support and at the same time prevent kids from slouching. Home learning requires concentration and having some sensory input can be really advantageous for wriggly kids who have a hard time sitting still.
Tips for increased screen time
Increased screen time is also something that is difficult to avoid at the moment. Having a tablet set up on a stand or leaning against something stable instead of flat on a table top helps avoid kids dropping their heads forward and creating neck strain and headaches.
And in a throw back to their baby days, some ‘tummy time’ is another way to create some extension and strength in the back of kids’ necks and upper backs while they are required to spend time watching their device (limit this to 10 minute blocks).
TAKE A BREAK & STAY HYDRATED!!!
Every 30-40 minutes or after a lesson encourage children to stand, stretch and self massage. We’ve got some suggestions for you below. Stretches need to be comfortable and performed repeatedly as breaks throughout the day. A water bottle on the desk and regular drink breaks will ensure muscles (and minds) stay hydrated. An opening out stretching routine after prolonged sitting is important. It helps muscle return to the right length so that they can be strong when they need to work again.
Strengthening Exercises for good posture
Postural muscles are those that hold our trunk and spine in good alignment. Kids ergonomics is crucial to maintaining good posture. Postural muscles allow our body to keep upright with the least amount of effort. If our postural muscles are not strong, no matter how hard we try, we can’t maintain good posture. If we allow our body to slump because these muscles are tired or weak, then we start to feel sore, especially after trying to sit for long periods. This is why we need to spend time strengthening these muscles.
Postural Strength Exercises – such as the Prone alternate arm and leg raise, Shoulder blade squeeze and Chest Raise all help to strengthen our back muscles. Exercises like these, help stop our shoulders from rolling forward and our back from rounding out. Without our postural muscles working efficiently, we will not be able to sit straight for any length of time without feeling pain or discomfort.
Self help with massage balls for tight muscles
We can teach our children to help themselves when they are feeling sore and stiff from studying. Self massage with balls, rollers or even our own hands can help.
A ball placed behind the back whilst leaning against the wall is a great way to massage sore back muscles.
Here are some examples of massage balls helpful to relieve tension. If you don’t have any at home a good old tennis ball will do!
The team at Oak Tree are here to help with kids ergonomic setups. We also stock a range of props and aids for improving kids ergonomics. Finally, we also stock massage tools to empower children to help themselves the moment they feel sore! Please send us an email or message on Facebook if you need help.