Posture is important for handwriting. It is not only the strength and movements of the muscles in the fingers which is used for the very complex task of hand writing but also the larger muscles which are a support and provide stability for fine motor skills to excel. Issues with posture can arise when children have low muscle tone particularly in relation to their core body strength. Posture can also be an issue when the child has inappropriate positioning to perform the task.
Of course a combination of poor core strength and inappropriate positioning will provide the worst possible outcome with respect to posture.
Children with low muscle tone or those with inappropriate positioning may have difficulty remaining on task, not necessarily because of a low attention span but because they feel uncomfortable and fatigue quickly.
At school, I find children are generally seated appropriately or close to it, however, at home they often perform their homework in some quite bizzare positions! Children performing homework with their legs dangling at the kitchen bench or reaching up to a high dining table will not be able to perform as well as children who are seated appropriately. As for children lying on the floor in front of the television, do I need to comment? Weird postures are not really an issue if your child doesn’t have problems with handwriting but if they do, it is important that you ensure they are given every opportunity to perform at their best.
There is no position that is absolutely “correct” in the sense that a child should remain in that one position for vast periods of time. Children should be allowed to stretch and move frequently. They will, however, perform best when seated appropriately for the period of time they need to perform a particular task, that is:
- feet flat on the floor or supported by a stable footrest,
- knees flexed to 90°, hips flexed between 90° to 110°,
- and elbows at approximately 90°.
Also make sure the seat length is appropriate for the child, if it is too short, it will provide insuffcient support, if too long, the child will not be able to sit with his or her back against the back support and will therefore have insufficient support. A cushion can be an effective way of reducing seat length.
When observing your child’s performance in handwriting, it is vital to consider posture as a basis for the activity. Without good support and control of larger muscle groups, the smaller muscle groups used in handwriting cannot do what they are supposed to do.
More information about posture and handwriting can be found here.