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
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!