While classrooms have evolved quite a bit over the past few decades, in many cases, classroom furniture has not. It’s a typical scene from a school classroom: children sit for hours at a time in hard-backed chairs from decades past, arching their backs at unnatural angles, writing in workbooks or reading at outdated school desks, which lack all the comforts of modern ones.
It’s also a scene that some parents have become concerned about, due to the toll this sort of posture exerts on children’s spines and backs throughout their childhood and in later years. Tips on ‘sitting properly’ from an ergonomics perspective tell us that how most children sit in classrooms isn’t correct:
• The lower leg should be vertical to the floor, the thigh horizontal.
• The lower arms should be resting on the desktop in a relaxed position.
• Desks and scholastic furniture should be height adjustable.
• The seat should tilt forward by approximately 2°.
• The seat depth should be positioned correctly: the thighs should not be in contact with the front edge of the seat.
• The backrest should be adapted to the back and support the lumbar region.
• A tilting desktop encourages an upright position that is better for the back.
And while working at their desks, on a computer, children should have a ‘monitor shelf’ able to be lowered or raised, in keeping with the tilted position of the head (reducing tension in the neck), and a keyboard shelf that allows the child to rest his or her arms whilst working. ‘Sight distance’ should also be taken into consideration, as this can produce neck tension when a computer is placed too high, or is too close. Most children are taught how to hold a pencil correctly to reduce hand-cramping and produce fluid writing, but these same concerns aren’t often brought to bear in a more holistic way that takes into account how kids move through their school day, from the desks they sit at, and the chairs they sit in, to where they do their homework.
There are some excellent ergonomically appropriate children’s furniture for school and home now being produced, and many parents are advocating schools purchase this furniture; some are even purchasing it themselves for their child to use at home.