Loïc is 6 years old. After a few minutes of work in class or during homework, he has a tendency to rest his head on his hand and to slouch over his desk. Other times, he fidgets on his chair and gets up repeatedly. What does Margo the ergotherapist recommend?
Whether at school or at home (homework, meals, etc.) it is important to ensure that the sitting position answers the child’s needs. As a matter of fact, it allows for better stability and directly influences the ability to achieve fine motor skills activities.
Maintaining a sitting position should happen unconsciously. If a child does not have the necessary motor skills or if the work station (kitchen table, desk at home) is not adapted, the child will need to spend a lot of attention and energy on remaining seated, instead of staying focused on the activity. The children should have:
- Their feet flat on the floor
- Their back well supported
- And knees bent at a 90° angle
The work surface should be adjusted at about 2 inches (5 cm) above the elbow.
This positioning can be obtained with simple material (e.g. box or phone directory under the feet, pillow or cushion for the back, etc.). If needed, specialized equipment is available (adjustable chairs and tables, special cushions, etc.)
Beware! Having the child sitting properly does not mean he has to stay in place for hours without moving! It is recommended to allow the child to move regularly, using fun and simple motor activities between the learning periods. Furthermore it is recommended to vary working positions (standing, lying, kneeling, etc.). These elements will help maintaining the attention.
- Magic glue : pretend to apply glue while rubbing the child’s hands, arms and legs. Afterward shake vigorously to remove the glue before it sticks. This allows for a general stimulation before resuming an activity requiring a good attention.
- The plane : the child is lying on his stomach. He raises his arms, strechted legs and head and maintains this position for 10 to 30 seconds. Ask the child to count out loud to make sure respiratory muscles are not tense. This exercise improves the quality of the seating posture and tolerance to the sitting position.
- Treasure thief : The child lying on his back, is holding a ball (a treasure) close to him. He must keep the ball with his legs, arms and head so the other person (thief) does not take it.
Margo, ergotherapist, wishes you a good back-to-school season!