13 January, 2017
With children spending an increasing amount of time seated, it is important to have the right desk to minimise the poor health effects that this can cause.
Poor posture resulting from an ill-fitting desk can result in pain, fatigue and difficulties paying attention in the short term and longer-term structural damage.
Desk, chair, books, stationary, it all adds up and gets expensive. That’s why it’s important to get the right advice before making a purchase, or to speak to your Chiropractor to see if any adjustments can be made to make your existing study space more suitable for your child. It can be particularly difficult if you have a few kids of varying ages working from the same space so flexibility is key to selecting the right desk for you and your family’s needs.
Height of the desk and chair
It is important that your child’s feet have a base to support the lower body.
Standing desks are increasingly being used to offset some of the ill-health effects of prolonged sitting. Another inexpensive and multi-purpose solution, is using a seat which is height adjustable and combining this with a foot rest.
It is commonly considered that the thighs should be parallel to the floor, however this is not appropriate for everyone. This may place extra load on the back muscles, discs and bones leading to injury or pain in future years. We can measure the right height for your child’s desk by looking at their body: the curve of their spine and the angle of the hips.
Back support in the chair
The seat should provide support for your child’s back. This includes ensuring that the height of the back of the chair extends to the top of the upper back and, where possible, there is lower back support to encourage the natural curves of the lumbar spine.
If you already have a chair that you are happy with despite it not having appropriate lumbar support, you can purchase a portable lumbar support from Body and Brain Centre. These are also great to use in cars and are a much cheaper option than buying a new car or quality chair!
Storage & space for clear mind
A desk that provides storage space to organise books and stationary items helps to remove potential distractions and keep your kids attentive to task at hand. Be aware that as your child grows so too will the workload (see Growth Spurts).
If your child is slumping towards the table to write and draw, it may be a sign of low muscle tone or poor posture. It is important that they are assessed for the cause of the slumping and to get appropriate treatment and home exercises to improve this slumping.
In the short term, while you are still building up the appropriate muscle strength, you may wish to purchase a slope board to assist the child maintain better posture. It should be noted that this is a short-term, band-aid solution not addressing the cause of the slumping, but is a reasonable crutch while they are progressing through their home rehab “games”.
As your child grows, it’s important to reassess the desk and how it is affecting you child’s posture and productivity. We suggest taking photos of your child at their desk both side-on and from behind to show your Chiropractor at your next appointment. This will help them give more specific advice and home exercises.
It’s also important to have enough space in the desk that you buy today for your growing child of the future. Is there enough space for a computer, text book and exercise book to be laid out? There should be enough space for these items plus more for ease of use while working.
This rings true of my child, now what?
Speak with your Chiropractor about assessing your child’s posture, primitive reflexes and the joints and muscles for tightness and restrictions.
Chiropractors who are experienced in treating children will adapt their treatments specifically to the child in front of them. The treatment may include non-“cracking” adjustments or manual adjustments depending on the age, maturity and preference of the child and parent; massage; healing therapeutic laser therapy; home rehabilitation exercises; and home advice.
About the Author
Dr Cassie Atkinson-Quinton - Paediatric-Trained Chiropractor & Paediatric Sleep Coach
Dr Cassie is a paediatric-trained chiropractor, sleep coach and, most importantly, mumma to Master H. She loves seeing newborns grow into inquisitive toddlers and busy school kids. She assesses for neurological development (primitive reflexes), posture, sleep health and movement patterns. She's an eager learning just like the kids she sees.
"It's better to grow healthy children than fix injured adults."