Children undergo so much physical development from birth to age 5 that clearly, we are not able to cover all these changes in one article. We have therefore narrowed it down and focused on how you can work on an important physical attribute which we think may sometimes be under-estimated when it comes to looking out for physical development, and which, if not developed properly, can lead to lots of problems later in life. We’re talking about: Posture
Good posture is vital – the placement of the skeletal bones and the ability of the muscular system to support them, has an impact on our ability to move freely throughout life. A sedentary lifestyle and poor posture can contribute to problems with back pain or arthritis, so helping children develop a good posture in the early years is important. Obviously, children will develop their strength, core muscles, body control and balance as they get older, through general and specific play, practice, and by running, skipping, jumping etc. But how much attention are you paying to their posture? A lot of children nowadays spend many hours in front of a screen, which can exacerbate poor posture because children may slump forward over their devices or fail to sit in an upright position when using a keyboard (as do many adults).
What is good posture?
A child with good posture will have their weight placed evenly over both hips and feet when standing. Their back should be straight with their shoulders back and chin raised off their chest. Their head, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should be in one straight line. This allows for the greatest freedom of movement with the least strain or compensation of one muscle group over another.
When sitting, the child’s back should be straight with their shoulders back. Their buttocks should sit back in the chair allowing their spine to sit in a natural slight “S” position. Often children will shift their hips forward in their chairs, allowing their pelvis to slide forward slightly, their back becomes rounded and their shoulders roll forward. This slouching position puts a strain on the lower back and also constricts their ability to breathe fully using their diaphragm.
Fun ways to practice good posture
1) Remember the old debutante trick of walking with a book on their head? Well, rather that using a book, why not ask children to walk around keeping a bean bag on their head. You can mark out a flat ‘obstacle’ course on the floor using masking tape and get the children to walk along the lines, balancing the bean bag. Vary the direction so they have to turn at intervals, and you could have a spot where they have to turn 360˚ or even get them to walk backwards, slowly. You can develop this activity by changing the object – can they walk balancing a paper cup instead, or a plastic ruler? Can they do it to music, stopping when you stop the music? You can also bring in some cross-curricular links and tell some stories of people in other countries who carry water or goods on their heads to keep their hands free!
2) Another way to encourage children to develop a good posture is to use animals that they know to point out the differences between them so that the children start to learn and feel what is a good posture, and what is not. Asking them to walk around “as tall as a giraffe” or “as proudly as a lion” will generally help them to pull up out of their back, for example.
3) Practice rising up onto tip toes and walk around with arms out to the side and keeping their back straight.
If you notice a child with poor posture, give a gentle reminder and praise children you see sitting up straight. If you suspect a child has a scoliosis of the spine, tell the parents and recommend they see a specialist.