Smart Spaces

As children grow, so does their need for their own work space. By creating an ergonomic area you can help them perform to their full potential.
By Tamlyn Vincent

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Ergonomics is about creating an efficient work environment that encourages productivity, and is comfortable and safe to use. Given the many hours children spend sitting at their desks, it makes sense to apply this thinking to your children’s work areas. Most office furniture is made for adults, and children who use incorrectly sized furniture are at risk of developing stress injuries, such as strained eyes and tight muscles in their hands and back. So make sure that your child’s work area accommodates her needs, depending on her age and size.
  • Your toddler doesn’t need her own desk yet; she can use your table or kitchen counter. But she does need to have a big enough area to work on and a chair that offers the right support. Or you can find a toddler-sized table and chairs for her room.
  • As your child gets older, sitting in a communal area may prove distracting. You can either set up a desk in her room, or adapt your own desk to accommodate her needs.
  • Older children and teenagers are probably going to want their own space in which to work and their own computer.
  • Your child needs a chair that suits her needs and size. Choose one that allows her to rest her feet on the floor, or get a footrest. The feet and ankles should be at a 90 degree angle, as should the knees and thighs and hips and thighs.
  • The chair should support the upper and lower back. If your child is too small, place a pillow or rolled towel at the back of the chair to support her lower back.
  • Make sure the chair is high enough so that her elbows are at 90 degrees, her arms are close to her body and her wrists are relaxed.
  • Items that are used frequently should be within easy reach to avoid straining for something. This may mean moving the keyboard and mouse closer, and for younger children, possibly getting a trackball or smaller mouse and a child-sized keyboard.
  • The monitor should be at, or just below, eye level to keep the head level while minimising the glare from the screen. It should also be straight in front of your child, about 45 to 50 centimetres away.
  • The desk must also be the right height and size for your child’s needs.
  • If your child uses your workstation, make sure everything is easily adjustable to her size. Try placing the keyboard on a pull-out shelf, having an additional chair nearby or keeping a back pillow and footrest on hand.
  • If she works at the table or kitchen counter, keep all of your child’s homework and art supplies in a basket that can be placed within easy reach when she’s working.
  • Cubby holes, storage boxes and shelving make work accessible, while keeping the area clutter-free.
  • You may also want to include a wall calendar, pin board or black board on which your child can make notes and keep a schedule.
  • Make sure the area gets enough light and air.
  • Ask your child to help design and set up her work space, so you can adjust everything to her needs and size. It will also help her see the area as hers.

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