Handwriting is complex process with lots of different variables that can impact how it looks. When a parent is looking for clues as to why a child’s handwriting may be sloppy, one of the most underestimated and overlooked areas is the child’s seated posture.
What exactly is seated posture?
Seated posture is how the child is sitting in their chair during class time. The key to observing seated posture is to get the whole story, not just a snapshot. For example, most students are able to sit upright with good form for a brief time, but the problem often lies in seated posture endurance.
Children with decreased core and back strength often struggle with maintaining an upright seated posture for longer periods of time, such as the time it takes to listen to a lesson and then complete written work at their desk. Without adequate core and back strength, children must compensate for it somehow and oftentimes one of the following “red flag” behaviors result:
The child cannot sit still- It actually takes more core and back strength to sit still than to move or fidget, so some children need to move in order to give their muscles a break. Consequently, the result is a restless, fidgety child who is always moving around their chair and desk area. This behavior then causes a host of other problems including poor handwriting, decreased attention, and potential disciplinary issues.
The child uses his hand or desk for postural support- Children who frequently rest their heads on their hands or desks most likely have weak core and back strength. It is too difficult for them to keep their upper body upright for long periods so they lighten the load by resting their head or arms on their desk. This poor posture affects handwriting, attention span, and conveys a message to the teacher that the child is bored on uninterested.
The child uses poor postural ergonomics – A child with decreased core and back muscles has to find different ways to sustain seated postures for long periods of time, so many children will get “creative” with their postures. Frequently, these “creative” postures are terrible for the child’s body ergonomics and as a result the child may have muscle/joint pain, poor circulation, and be at an increased risk of injury. A bad posture can even lead to issues like kyphosis; an excessive forward curve of the spine. Such issues must be addressed, but a positive posture can prevent this from happening in the first place.
Ideal Posture for Writing
Ideally, your child should be sitting with both feet on the floor (not dangling from a chair that is too high), with knees bent at 90 degrees, hips bent at 90 degrees, an upright back with their shoulders back, and their hands resting on the desk. The paper should be slightly angled on the desk to account for an ideal wrist position when writing. Obviously this posture isn’t going to happen for anyone ALL of the time, but this posture gets your child in the best possible position for handwriting.
How to Help Posture
Ultimately, it is no secret that the chair your child is sitting in could be having an impact on their posture. With this in mind, you should always invest in good office chairs for your home so that your child can practice their handwriting skills comfortably. Plus, buying a well-designed office chair can even help your own posture! That is not all though. The good news for both parents and kids here is that ACTIVE PLAY leads to better posture! So yes, get out there with your child and PLAY! Do things that will really engage your child’s core and back muscles (which is almost all movements), and do it often! You both will feel better and it will lead to big accomplishments in the classroom too! Try active things to do like Run, jump, climb, swim, dance, skip, sports, roller skate, and bike! Enjoy! It is important to address posture issues from a young age as it could lead to problems later in life where they will have to seek neck pain chiropractic treatment for one example to reverse the effects of bad posture.
Lyn Armstrong says
What a great article!!! Such helpful information for teachers and parents. This posture is important at home for doing homework and even eating! Sitting on a bar stooll at the kitchen cabinet is less than ideal for homework writing! Also, When a child supports their head with a hand, watch for where the hand is placed. Students who have visual teaming issues often cover one eye to keep from seeing double or blurry.
Amy Smith says
Great addition to the article Lyn! I appreciate the feedback and insight!
Kristina Hedberg Karlberg says
Most postures that are poor at school ,comes of active baby reflexes that are still active – although they shouldnt. There are special rhythmic movements that need to be worked on at the floor, on stomach, at back or in knees and hands, before anything can really happen to strengthe the head, neck, back so they can hold the child in upright position. See more at : http://www.blombergrmt.com/rhytmic-movement-training/
Amy Smith says
I agree that reflexes can come into play with posturing, but I would argue that decreased core strength and endurance has a large part to do with it as well
Why not stand up desks and when tried of standing it folds down to sit down desk?
Amy Smith says
I love that idea! The only problem most schools face is budgets and its not always possible, but I think it would definitely benefit so many kids. Thanks for your thoughts!