More Kids Now Grow up with A Healthy Spine
David Newbound opened The Back Shop in the early 1990’s and has been helping customers with back pain issues for over thirty years. When I ask him to talk about the changes he’s seen I was only slightly surprised when he tells me it’s a greater awareness that parents seem to have of their children’s physical development that’s most striking.
“It makes sense really,” says David. “It’s the yoga generation of parents who understand the value of movement, balance and posture when it comes to their own children’s physical development.” And it’s true, researching for L-SL I can see that mum and baby yoga is incredibly popular with new mums all over London. Understandably, if possible, parents want to carry on that good work at home.
Many parents take up yoga and Pilates to help with their own back problems and to correct bad habits picked up from their own childhoods in the days when these activities had yet to reach the level of popularity attained now.
“It’s not only about a straight spine,” says David, “parents are usually delighted that our baby products also so obviously promote bonding through encouraging eye contact, closeness and touch.”
And I can see what he means. All the children’s furniture at The George Street Back Store showroom is designed to put a child’s development first. Everything from baby bouncers to prams as well as high chairs and chairs has been thoughtfully designed, beautifully made and is comfortable as well. It really is an impressive collection.
David is clearly passionate about children’s physical development. He says: “Your children could have at least two years less life expectancy unless society changes our attitude to sitting at work and at home and the best place to start is now, whatever age they are.”
David’s message is important, so I ask for some simple golden rules that all parents can follow to give their offspring the best foundation.
How to Support Your Child’s Physical Development
Phase-by-Phase THE BACK SHOP Guide.
From birth to 4 months
The first few months offer a lifetime of foundation. Choose a great car seat, breast feed if possible, ensure good air circulation, and fresh sleep surfaces. These factors have immense significance in terms of a baby’s non-verbal sensory perception.
4 months to 6 months
It’s around four to five months that a baby’s physical development begins to quicken and we start noticing purposeful movement. In the animal kingdom the antelope, for example, has evolved to walk soon after birth to keep up with the herd.
However, human offspring are very different. The newborn doesn’t learn to walk before crawling and the size of a baby’s brain and head means that children are born with some physical development still to take place outside of the womb.
The child’s muscles need to become strong before the automatic sitting and walking reflexes can function, and controlling the head on its stalk is vital.
How does this muscle strengthening occur? One prime method for your baby is simply being on the floor and lifting their head to see you. The head is quite a weight and therefore great exercise. Anything that buys parents time at the expense of a child’s physical development (like propping them with pillows so that they can see without developing their head muscles, or breaking down the crawling phase by putting them in devices that allow them to be mobile) should be discouraged.
6 months to 18 months
This is the period when we introduce our children to one of life’s most common activities, sitting, and it’s easy to get this part wrong by choosing high-chairs that are designed for convenience over balance and support.
It’s really important that children sit so that their spine balances and moves under their own control. In this way, the muscles that support the spine and head will naturally grow stronger and stronger.
Parents already observe this type of sitting in their children as young as 5 months… it’s seen when a child sits at the first step of the stairs with their feet on the floor. They will sit in beautiful poise controlling the rocking movement of the spine by reflexes activated through the soles of their feet. This clearly demonstrates how good a child’s natural coordination system is, but also just how broken that system can become through the use of conventional high-chairs.
What to look for in a high-chair.
• Size: The seat is a max of 3/4 of the length of a child’s thigh. This allows their knees to bend whilst bare feet can gently touch a flat surface triggering erecting reflexes in the spine.
•Interaction: The chair will fit up to a table rather than have a tray so that they interact with others around the table.
• Adjustable: Each dimension should be adjustable every month or two to fit a growing body.
18 months to 8 years
This is the period when children move in to the adult world of furniture and the result can be a disastrous change in the young person’s posture, eventually causing problems with long-term back pain as an adult.
If parents choose an adjustable high-chair, then it’s possible it could support the child perfectly right through to 8 years of age; but if not, it’s sensible to invest in a chair that at least allows the child to continue to have foot support for as many years as possible.
At school more often than not chairs are extremely uncomfortable for a child, encouraging fidgeting rather than a learned ability to sit still and concentrate. Sadly, over time bad habits learnt at the school desk will offer an increased risk of destroying posture in later life.
The Back Shop has developed a school chair solution that works from 5 upwards, called a posture pack and any parent can create something similar with just a wedge of foam and a ring binder.
8 years to 12 years
After the age of 8 years some posture habits will have become engrained but there is still plenty of opportunity to correct bad sitting positions if parents see this as a priority.
‘Nagging’ a child to sit and stand with a straight spine seldom works, but if these suggestions are coupled with doing simple yoga and Pilates stretches together at home as a regular family activity then the message is re-enforced with purpose and meaning.
That great feeling of wellbeing we get post class should not just be reserved for adults, kids of course will enjoy it as well. If it’s engrained from an early age their spines will surely get the message ensuring at least the possibility of better spinal health in adulthood.
12 plus and into teens
As the teen years approach peer pressure dominates. We’ve not found much to influence spinal development in this period although choosing a chair their peers think is “on trend” but actually helps them to move and balance would be perfect. Kneeling chairs are quite superb if they rock! Bouncy ball chairs work well, and an adjustable desk that they can stand up at would be the ultimate.
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