Have you ever observed your child sitting down relaxing and their spine looks like the letter C? Parents know this position cannot be good and try to correct this hunching position by telling their kids to sit up straight. The problem is the amount of time kids are sitting and the inability of their muscles to hold a straight sitting position! Long periods of sitting is becoming an epidemic even with the younger generation.
With the increased reliance of our youth using technology for school work, entertainment and communication, our kids are sitting longer than ever before. Combine this with the lack of physical activity in our schools, specifically in our elementary schools, and our children are sitting longer than ever before. This is being negatively reflected in their posture.
Research by Occupational Therapist Angela Hanscon has shown that the ability of our children to hold a proper posture has decreased over the years. Today’s kids cannot pass the standard strength tests that the kids in the 1980s could. Therefore, minutes after you ask them to sit up straight, they slump back down into the hunched position. They have never developed the core strength required to hold themselves up straight.
What are the implications of this new posture for our kids? The same as in adults who sit all day: tight muscles, joint pain, headaches, clumsiness, fidgeting, attention deficits, obesity, depression, decreased immune system, and the list goes on. Without properly developing the core muscles, our children’s generation is going to have a much harder time correcting the issues once chronic problems start to occur.
This sounds scary, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. What do your kids need to do to build essential core muscles and be able to keep them strong as an adult? The answer is simple, they need to play. Unorganized free play, (this is on top of organized sports). Encourage your children to play outside. Activities such as running, climbing, swimming, spinning, jumping in puddles or anything else that requires them to move. This strengthens not only their bodies, but their minds as well. Outside play enables them to choose what they want to do and how far they want to push themselves. This will allow them to develop their bodies at their own rate while having fun and burning off energy.
The younger the child, the more activity they require. Our kids know this instinctively; this is why young kids are SO BUSY! Angela Hanscom states in her book, Balanced and Barefoot, that kids of all ages need 3 hours of free play per day, preferably outside for proper development.
We also need to teach them how important their spine is! It houses all the signaling for their body to work and interpret what is going on around them. Teach them to take care of it. If it gets injured, which it will, seek care so the issues don’t end up as a chronic condition. Children’s injuries are just as important to treat as adults, maybe even more so.