Season 1, Episode 8

Kid’s Posture Podcast

We talk to Lorna Taylor, a Children’s Physiotherapist who specialises in helping teachers and schoolchildren. How can we help our children have great posture, and what things are stopping them from having great posture as kids?

Be sure to also check out our article on Kid’s Posture Help here!

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About This Episode

Physiotherpist Lorna Taylor joins me on this fascinating kid’s posture podcast

Teacher's Posture with Lorna Taylor of Jolly Back
Lorna Taylor, physiotherapist and founder of Jolly Back. Lorna’s been a children’s physiotherapist for over 15 years and is now specializing in occupational health and ergonomics

Transcript

James Crow
So hello everybody. Its James from Posture Stars. T hanks so much for coming back. Today we’re revisiting Lorna Taylor, who is a physiotherapist who works with schools, teachers and children. And today we’re going to be talking about children’s posture. Hello, Lorna.

Lorna Taylor
Hi, James. Thanks for having me on again.

James Crow
Thanks so much for coming on again. Your last podcast with us was absolutely fantastic talking about teachers posture, and today we’re going to talk about just as relevant children’s, kids posture. There’s a lot to talk about. What’s going on in the world of kids posture Lorna?

Lorna Taylor
A whole heap of things is going on with kid’s posture right now, James, I’m sure any parents will be familiar with online learning that we’ve had at home with kids, hunched over screens, whether that be a mobile phone, an iPad, or laptop device. We’re more familiar, I think right now with kids posture, but it goes way back to when we are born, really, our development of our spinal curves and our posture, in terms of lying on the floor, learning to roll, to crawl, to sit, putting up into standing and then walking. So posture development for kids starts from day one. And it’s something we definitely need to be thinking about from day one.

James Crow
Especially nowadays with everybody. We’ve got a lot lockdowns going on, we’re in the middle of the whole COVID lockdown situation. I remember back when I was a kid in 1827, we used to run around the fields with fishing nets and sticks hitting each other and generally climbing trees and falling down ditches. Whereas nowadays, I guess a lot of these children are sat in front of screens and not getting the movement that you’re talking about?

Lorna Taylor
Yes, you’re spot on there. I think it’s several reasons. I think personally, as a parent, I felt socially that can I really let my children of eight or nine go out to the park without a parent, for fear of something happening. You obviously see newspaper stories of terrible things that are going to happen, which are so incredibly rare, but it’s always brought to the forefront of our mind. And I think we are perhaps more risk adverse as parents, and the children are being less exposed to adventurous play, we call it risky play. And we need that play to develop an awareness of ourselves, and our sense of risk and our sense of danger. And if we’re protected from it all of the time, we Firstly, aren’t developing that awareness and understanding of our own bodies. But secondly, we’re not developing our sense of “Is it okay to do this and or is it not”? And you sometimes think, you know, kids crossing the road, if they’ve not been exposed to that before to do that safely, how are they going to learn to do that? So it’s a difficult balance. But I think as a society, we have reined our kids a lot more in and when you add technology and addictive games into that mix, we’ve got a really growing problem with our young people.

James Crow
Yeah, I agree. So we’ve got a couple of things you’re mentioning there is in developmental terms there’s the physical development that comes with those exaggerated movements that come with play, and the cognitive development that comes with the risk associated with with that play. And then we’re just starting to talk about gamification and the gamification of healthcare, particularly for children. But the issue with that is that these screens can be very addictive in terms of screen time. So how do you manage enjoying gamifying healthcare with your children at the same time as getting them away from those screens? What’s the answer?

Lorna Taylor
It’s difficult, isn’t it? Because we’ll be familiar with with Pokemon Go? Which, yes, great to get kids more active. And I know children that have walked miles with family that never would have done before or kids going out in the rain. So yeah, there are benefits in terms of activity there. But then when they’re going out there looking over a screen, it’s not entirely safe, you still got risks to eye health that is not really touched on too much, either when children are looking at screens. So I think it is about balance. But ultimately, it’s a really difficult job being a parent. It’s a really difficult role growing up as well. And I think it’s always about choosing your battles, isn’t it and also trying to instil healthy habits within children. So even if you can do simple but really impactful things, for example, not having screens at the dinner table. That’s something we can all do, and have more sort of engaged in type conversations and just know that that time is protected. You can disconnect WiFi and things around bedtime. There’s a lot around screen time before going to bed and I think for me, I’m probably more concerned about the sleep disruption of phones in bedrooms. If you’re then looking at texts and kids going on social media and playing games at like two, three in the morning, I think that’s probably more of an issue than going on your phone near a bed. I don’t know. It’s just something I believe. So maybe charging phones up downstairs, things like that, trying to look for the small wins, set screen time limits, maybe can you do that with your kids, you each set a limit? Because they are quite good, the kids, at come in back and saying, well, you do it. So yeah, maybe looking at little goals you can do together. And invariably, when children certainly teens are off their phones a bit, they do say that they’ve glad they’ve restricted their use a bit, they do feel better for it. But it’s not easy.

James Crow
It’s got to be a good balance, hasn’t it? We can’t turn around and be Luddites and just say, well, there’s no screens, because they’re going to grow up in a world which is probably all screens, or some sort of virtual reality.

Lorna Taylor
Yes, and it is phenomenal, what they are learning as well. Some of social media apps, and they can cook various creations, they can make certain things. So it does bring a sense of creativity as well. It is it’s like everything in life. It’s a balance.

James Crow
They you can do all these things well, but they can’t go on podcast and say, oh, when I was a kid, we used to do that. They can’t do that. Lornaa!

Lorna Taylor
You actually should get some kids on a podcast, shouldn’t you that would be a good thing.

James Crow
I think that would be a great thing we could we could talk about the pleasures and pains of growing up as a kid in relation to posture.

Especially a kid of a physio.

Lorna Taylor
Especially a kid of a physio.

James Crow
As an Alexander Technique teacher and posture specialist and ergonomics type person, I am often asked what I do about my kids posture. And I wanted to mention that because I have to answer the same every time. And what I say is that I had a friend. And his father was a psychotherapist and his father used to do psychotherapy on him. And I think that was probably something he didn’t appreciate. And so for my kids, I don’t chastise them about their posture. But I do try and make sure that the environment is available as best it can be for them. So that developmentally they’ve got the best opportunities without their parents constantly nagging them about their posture, which I would be liable for really falling out with my kids over if I did that. So let’s talk briefly about developmental postural issues associated with sedentary child’s behaviour. What effect does it have on them physically.

Lorna Taylor
So from day one, as we were saying earlier, if kids are not exposed to playing on the floor and just learning that sense of self and reaching for objects to focus eyes and make the neural connections in their brain for the next stage of development, that will have knock-on impacts all the way along. So it’s incredibly important that kids just be able to just play just be on the floor. It’s become a lot more difficult with people who have a wooden floor because it is harder to crawl and move on a wooden floor. It’s more slippy, so kids have been exposed less to this really essential base building block. Kids often are in safe car seats and push chairs. Yes, we do need safe car seats, but they can click now into pushchairs. So kids are just not exposed to being on the floor. So it’s essential that we we just let them play, let them be let them develop. So they can build up their core strength in their muscles for the next stage. Because actually, once you get to walking, and when you start to carry in bags and sitting in classrooms, it’s quite hard work. And if we haven’t developed this core strength, it then makes it you fatigue more. So you’ll then probably slump more, you’re less active with your learning. So the oxygenation to your brain is compromised, if you’re slumped over. It’s difficult to write and use fine motor control. So it’s that active base at the start of early childhood a movement that is key to set kids up for the future. And that’s when we can then start looking at equipment and furniture and workstation setup to support them further.

James Crow
When I bought a sit stand desk, I went the whole hog and I went extra to get one that goes really low so that my kids can sit and do homework at it with me. A lot of people don’t get that opportunity. And their kids are doing homework on the kitchen table which is normally 73 centimetres high on the kitchen chair which is normally too low even for an adult to rest their arms comfortably and write or to use a laptop. Are we missing the boat in terms of children’s posture for homework?

Lorna Taylor
I think yeah, I think you’re right in what you’re saying. We must be very respectful of people’s home working environments and they are often shared spaces, as you say, but there are very simple things you can do to improve your kids setup at home. And it can be on putting a cushion and wedge cushion on the seat so their hips, tip forward, the knees are slightly lower than the hips. So they’re all having a natural, more upright posture. A rolled up towel or even socks filled with, with tights to make a lumbar roll if it works, so just roll up and pop in that the base of your back. And if feet aren’t touching the floor, a box. I think a lot of us have had a few home deliveries. So just a simple box under your feet. So you’ve got contact with the floor and your legs on swinging. And just getting them up moving. Simple investments could be a laptop, a separate keyboard and mouse for laptop. Make a laptop riser, just if you’ve got any bits of wood at home, use use a box again, but try and get the laptop at eye level. And I think if the one piece of advice we could give our kids as they move progressively through this world of technology and are never going to be far from a laptop, just to think about that laptop height, because I think if we can get that bit right, you will then find that you can sort the seating out more easily. So that probably would be my one bit of advice. If you can only do one thing, but yeah, it’s a combination. Because you know, I don’t know, what are your thoughts on that?

James Crow
Well, I like the idea of getting them sat comfortably and to do that in most of our household chairs, they do need that support for their feet, it’s really important. It just helps them sit better. And in relation to that, getting the screen in front of them. I have to admit, because the laptop at home serves two purposes. Firstly, I’m recording this podcast on it. And then secondly, it also goes as a homework machine for the kids. So when they’re only doing 10 or 15 minutes homework, it doesn’t always get connected to an external keyboard and mouse which is heresy, which is absolutely terrible.

Lorna Taylor
For 10-15 minutes, I think the key is, that regular movement of position. Yeah. And they say don’t they that your your best posture is your next posture, just keep moving. So 10-15 minutes is fine. I think for the older kids that, they’re not doing exams necessarily this year, but just so many tests in replacement, it seems that maybe they can set a timer on their phone, like every half an hour they they stop, they stand up they stare at for 20 metres in the distance for 20 seconds, just to try and relax their eyes, as well as blinking tightly. So yeah, just the the factors that we think about in the office, workplace and for adults are just as important for children.

James Crow
I agree. It’s exactly the same thing for adults for children. I’m reminded of Alan Hedge’s three S’s, as they’re called. Professor Alan Hedge was recommending for every 20 minutes sitting, we stand for eight and then stretch and move around for two. I think that works quite well with kids as well because I noticed after about 20 minutes, the kids start to get a bit fidgety and a bit fed up.

Lorna Taylor
A bit restless, I think in schools, as well, you know, probably a real bugbear of saying to children don’t fidget, yet but actually they’re needing to adjust their position. If that’s too long, let them stand up. And coming back to schools as well I find it heartbreaking actually, as a punishment, breaks are cancelled or PE is not seen as as important as Maths or English and is sometimes gets dropped from the day. So I think in education, teaching, the importance of movement for our future workers and the health of our children is a great thing.

James Crow
It just seems at the moment that it’s – sit still, ignore your body, ignore its discomfort and learn so that you can go out and be an effective productive worker later in life. And what we’re doing is we’re we’re taking an orange and bruising it really badly and then trying to sell it on the shop shelf.

Lorna Taylor
Yeah, a highly functioning orange, yes.

James Crow
This is the worst analogy ever. But the best one I can come up with.

Lorna Taylor
It does, it makes sense. And I think there’s just so much opportunity. There’s so much opportunity, things we can do simply to improve our kids posture and their sense of well being because posture is all about how we feel, how we carry ourselves. And if COVID has taught us nothing, it has taught us that wellbeing is really important. And it’s linked to our mental health. So it’s it’s actually quite an easy quick win for schools. I believe to improve not only health, but learning outcomes.

James Crow
Absolutely, absolutely get those kids active and moving and they’re learning outcomes. There’s been so many studies on it.

Lorna Taylor
Yes and get them set up with improved furniture. And teachers are probably familiar with when children’s tri and tip forward on their chair. And it’s, of course, you know, you get all four legs on the chair. But actually, they’re just trying to create that wedge that tilts forward to actually sit more upright, more active, more engaged.

James Crow
So let’s talk about that. As a kid, I went to a school and we had these desks that were a sort of all in one pew-desk combo that the lid would rise. There’s probably a special name for it. And that desk was my desk from the age of 11 until the age of 18. How could that desk have fitted me?

Lorna Taylor
Yeah, I don’t know. Unless you didn’t grow in height!

James Crow
I’m still four foot one as a result of my schooling!

Lorna Taylor
Yeah, I guess it probably wouldn’t have done but maybe you were moved out of position also. Or maybe you were gernerlly quite fit and active as a kid and you could tolerate those positions a little bit more. Or maybe you did have excruciating back pain and that’s why you’re an Alexander Teacher.

James Crow
Later life I did and that’s why I’ve trained in healthcare. Yeah, to that school. I apologise for my initials carved all over that desk.

Lorna Taylor
You’re a marked man, James, a marked man.

James Crow
I am a marked man. As well as that they probably think William Shakespeare was there at the same time. I apologise for that, as as well.

Lorna Taylor
I’m guessing school wasn’t your favourite place.

James Crow
To be fair, I did have a lovely time at school. Although a lot of the people I went to school with didn’t. It was a boys school. It was a grammar school. So I flourished in that environment. Because I’ve always been quite confident and got on well with people and didn’t take offence. For a lot of people, they found it a lot more difficult and look back a lot less fondly on their times.

Lorna Taylor
Yeah, school has a big impact on our life, doesn’t it? Yeah, I don’t know anyone that won’t have been impacted somehow from their schooling. I guess it’s it’s there to do a job, to impact us.

James Crow
Or from their university. 30 years after university, once or twice a month, I still wake up trying to find the exam room that I haven’t got the directions for that I haven’t revised for. And that was 30 years ago!

Lorna Taylor
I haven’t had one in a while but I do remember having those for quite a while after graduating. That sudden panic, waking up in the middle of night, you’ve got an exam. So yeah, I’m glad those days are behind me.

James Crow
I still get them now and again. But I’m okay. I’m not too traumatised, I’ll survive, I’ll bury the feeling. Getting back onto pasture what we can’t bury is the postural problems that are resulting out of kids at the moment, having homework at home and being kept away from movement. And then when they go back to school, something I suspect is going to change quite rapidly. Because wellbeing is in the spotlight now as as a result of COVID-19. Most companies and hopefully the education system are turning around and saying, oh my lord, the well being of our staff has been vastly overlooked and underrated. And if people are going to be happy and healthy and productive, most importantly for the companies and for the schools, they needs to be looked after. They need to be cherished and not sat in that one size fits all desks and chairs for eight years of their lives

Lorna Taylor
Absolutely. There’s a lot more coming out about school design actually making learning and working environments, more active and integrating. You know, I’ve seen one school it’s in Denmark, I think. I’m not sure how well it will be embraced here, but hopefully one day, where rather than stairs, they’ve got a separate slide, so you can slide down rather than just use the stairs, . Just bringing that fun element in, that and sort of climbing walls with mats underneath. So just giving kids an opportunity to, like explore and express themselves and be active within the constraints of the learning day.

James Crow
That sounds amazing. I wonder if that’s a peculiarly European thing, whether in Britain, we’d just use a slide to get them from class to class quicker. And so it shaves seven seconds off the transition from classroom to classroom.

Lorna Taylor
A PE kit at the bottom so you shoot down and you’re ready for PE or ready for the next thing.

James Crow
Yes, straight into those shorts and trainers.

Lorna Taylor
It’s a tough job being a teacher and I think there’s an opportunity for improving teacher training because I do think it’s perhaps more teachers and school leaders are not so aware of the importance of kids posture and posture for themselves, as to why they’re not embracing it more. Maybe it is an understanding issue rather than just not wanting to do it. So I think teacher training can be improved working in learning environments.

James Crow
Let’s answer those questions. And it is an understanding and an awareness thing. Let’s let’s go through our three questions slightly tailored, Lorna Taylor for today’s podcast, which is: question one is what is kid’s posture?

Lorna Taylor
I think for kids posture, similarly with adults, but I think for children, it’s going to be more about gross motor development and how we are developing our posture in terms of muscle strength, flexibility, our coordination, our activities, where we cross the midline of our body. So getting two hemispheres of our brain working together. So I think for me, there’s more involved, and it’s posture and gross motor development in children, rather than just for adults.

James Crow
Yeah. So when we think about children’s posture, we’re not thinking about a position, we’re thinking about the whole developmental sphere of moving into fully grown organisms.

Lorna Taylor
Yes, that development of a being

James Crow
That said, then, how do you help children’s posture? How can we help children’s posture? And as a third question, what can parents do, and teachers do to support that? Two questions in one.

Lorna Taylor
So as a children’s physio, I’m really passionate about early childhood development, and in terms of activity, to support the cognitive learning as well as their gross motor development. And that sense of wanting to explore and wanting to take ownership for your own health, I think we’ve got huge place and role we can play in early childhood development. So I think that’s something we can do both as parents and teachers. And although you want to do nothing more than take your kids to the park after a busy day. It is time so well invested, even if you’ve got a garden to go out, set up an obstacle course at home, have fun moving, because if kids enjoy stuff, they will want to do it more so and we all know that good habits are formed early on. So if we can instil that sense of wanting to move, wanting to be active, when our kids are young, that we are setting them up for, you know, a much better future. So that’s something that we can all do, and from schools as well. And then leading on more from the early years, and look thinking of primary age children. Again, coming back to movement, looking at active travel, going to score looking at nutrition, obviously, if we are overweight, we’re going to have more stress and strain on our joints, it’s then harder to move. And you feel less comfortable when you’re hot and puffing and you’re struggling to keep up with your friends. So good nutrition at home is really important. And that is possible on all sorts of budgets. So sensible eating at home and school would also help and then moving at more so into secondary when kids are more sedentary. And they’re having longer periods of time on computers, looking at their furniture, and a workstation setup as we would with adults. So looking at their desk chair combo, looking at height of screens, time apps to limit your screen time. Ones that you can plot hydration, for example. So using the apps that are available to support you, because there’s lots out there now,

James Crow
There are 1000s of companies who are poised and ready to help school children. And we just need the education system to give it the thumbs up and say, yeah, we’re going to invest in our kids and look after them.

Lorna Taylor
Yeah. And I understand that I still think we’re trying to not necessarily sell is the right not the right word, is it but we’re trying to share our passion with people that still aren’t fully aware of why they need to do it or understand why, but I think the answer is more education within schools and within families. Actually, yeah, there’s some really simple things you can do that can make a big impact. I think we’ll have a greater take up and belief in what we’re trying to do.

James Crow
I really hope so. In industry now, the financial side of industry is is drilling down into wellness and seeing it as an opportunity rather than an expense. I just feel that maybe in education, they’re lagging behind that somehow not seeing it as an opportunity.

Lorna Taylor
And I think it would be brilliant to have some research looking at teacher health and well being impact impacting children’s outcomes. Because we know office workers are more productive. Well actually, if you’ve got teachers that are more productive, the product the service offered by schools, the product is a kid’s future, essentially. And if that can be impacted as it were with other outputs for organisations, then that’s huge. And maybe if schools thought or our kids though actually five looked after my health and wellbeing, I’ve had that instilled in me I know how to keep myself healthy, safe and well. And I can be earning an extra 10 grand a year because of it. Yeah, I think that’s when people be more interested. But that is data we’re never likely to get in the near future. But if you compare other studies, I think it’s schools have got a huge opportunity to really have a great impact.

James Crow
I think so you could look at, you could look at the child’s lifetime as a tree. And if you’ve got a tiny little sapling, and you chop a little branch off and break it in half here or there, that affects the whole of the growth of the tree for the next 80-90 years. Whereas if you take an 80 or 90 year old tree, and snap the trigger off at the top, then you haven’t really made that much difference.

Lorna Taylor
Coming back to your thing as well, about giving advice to your kids, I wouldn’t as a physio sort of be saying, “Oh, you need to sit up straight and all watch when you’re bending down” like that, but I do like to think I’ve exposed my kids to risk and although that is a bit scary as a parent, you know, we’ve we’ve let them walk along the top of a wall with a hand held, you know, one of them has fallen off the top of a kids slide and broken an arm. And yes, you feel totally awful. But we assess that risk is safe. But she was dressed the Cinderella and I think the tights were a bit slippery to be standing at the top of a slide. But no, let them climb up a slide. If it’s safe, people aren’t coming down, you know, have that confidence to assess that risk. And yeah, they are fortunately very aware of things. Now you never know what’s going to happen in the future. But just embrace it and go with it and give them those experiences. Because they’re fun as much as anything else.

James Crow
You’ve inspired me, Lorna, I’m going to close off our podcast now. Take my children out into the garden. And I’m going to balance them on top of a really narrow brick wall or something, throw balls at them.

Lorna Taylor
Get them up a tree, and rolling down a big grass bank. I went running with our middle one the other day we went and did an off road run and there was a massive hill and she was ” Can I roll down it?” She’ll be 17 this year! Just avoid the sheep poo!

James Crow
Just avoid the sheep poo, thinks the parents All right, everybody, embrace it. You heard it here. Our best advice for kids posture is to get them moving and get them away from those screens, or at least use those screens sensibly and have break times away from them. So without with that, all that said, I am going to go out and play in my garden, everybody. Thank you for listening. Thank you, Lorna.

Lorna Taylor
Thank you.

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