As you plan for the start of another school year, consider the chair your child will be using at the computer.
Most standard desk chairs are not designed for anyone under five feet tall. If your middle-schooler sits down in the family computer chair and his feet dangle at the lowest chair setting, you should consider investing in a smaller-scaled chair, as feet should always touch the floor. Many full-size chairs can’t adjust low enough for children or shorter adults to use comfortably, which can cause posture problems and strain on arms, legs or backs.
“The most important thing in a chair is adjustability,” says Karen Jacobs, an occupational therapist and clinical professor in occupational therapy at Boston University. “It would be nice to get a chair that is completely adjustable for all family members,” Jacobs says. But that isn’t always possible. She recommends that there be an inch or two of space between the end of the chair and the back of the knee: Make sure your child can bend his knee. The angle of the back of the chair should open to 90 degrees or more. “You should sit so the back of the chair is on your back, because you need that extra support,” says Jacobs, co-creator of Stretch Break for Kids a free download for computers that periodically pops up to remind children to take a break from technology by doing a series of simple stretches or making ergonomic adjustments to their workstations.
At Bizchair, which specializes in office furniture, there are about 100 different styles and colors of kid-size chairs. Bizchair’s president, Sean Belnick, says the smaller chairs are meant for shorter people who weigh under 200 pounds. Some models adjust to 16 inches off the ground, while a standard chair might be 18 to 20 inches from the floor.
If you don’t want to invest in a second chair, you can compromise by getting a footrest, Jacobs says. A popular style for children is a footrest that has a plate that kids can put their feet on and move back and forth, encouraging circulation and stretching.