Virtual learning can be tough for kids for a variety of reasons, but that doesn’t mean it has to be tough on their bodies, too. Ergonomics are just as important for kids as they are for adults. Here’s how to set up a comfy workstation for your at-home student.
Your kid might think flopping on the couch with her Chromebook or balancing a notebook on his lap in the hammock out back is fun. Over time, though, they’ll end up with the same sort of aches and pains we get from contorting our bodies in odd positions.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take a whole lot to set up a basic, ergonomically friendly workstation for your child. Let’s see how you can tweak your existing furniture to be more child-friendly, healthy, and ergonomically sound.
The first thing to focus on is a chair. Some schools are requiring kids to be glued to their computers for hours each day. An uncomfortable chair is going to make that time even more difficult.
Whether you use a regular kitchen chair or nab a fancy, spinning office chair, you’ll want to make some adjustments so it fits your child’s height.
Start by adjusting the chair to the appropriate height for the table or desk, if possible. They can also sit on a pillow or booster cushion. The goal is for their arms to be able to rest comfortably at a 90-degree angle on the table or desk.
Add a lumbar support pillow for more comfort. This will be especially helpful if the chair’s seat is so deep, your child’s back doesn’t touch it when she’s sitting with her legs naturally bent.
LOVEHOME Lumbar Support Pillow for Chair and Car, Memory Foam Back Cushion for Back Pain Relief - Ideal Back Support for Office Chair, Computer, Carseat, Gaming Chair, Recliner (Black)
Perfect for additional support in a deep chair.
And let’s not forget those dangly legs! Your kid can get mighty uncomfortable if his legs are hanging for long stretches of time. An adjustable or memory foam footrest, or a stack of yoga blocks, will give him somewhere to plant his feet.
For active children, try using a balance ball chair. It’ll help them burn off some energy, while also engaging those core muscles—perfect for long Zoom classes.
If you have a child’s desk, chances are you can adjust the height. The goal is for the surface to be just below the height of your child’s elbow when she’s seated, and holding her arms at a 90-degree angle. If you can’t adjust the desk’s height, experiment with chairs to find one that’s the perfect height.
Some families are doing virtual learning at the kitchen table. If this is the case, try making a poster-board cubicle for each child. It’ll help keep their stuff contained and minimize distractions, which can be a total lifesaver if you’re schooling multiple kids at once.
It’s really tough to maintain good posture while using a laptop, especially for long hours. Even when it’s sitting on a desk, a laptop’s design encourages you to lean forward to look at the screen.
To create the ultimate setup, we recommend getting your child a mini Bluetooth keyboard to use with his laptop, Chromebook, or tablet. Then, you can raise the screen to eye level with a stack of books or even an inexpensive adjustable laptop riser.
Check out the video above for tips on how to avoid wrist and arm pain from poor computer use. Remember: what works for adults also works for kids!
Ideally, your child’s wrists will float just above the table and keyboard. Pay attention to the angle of their wrists, too, so they can avoid any extra strain or stress. Always keep the keyboard within your child’s reach—you don’t want them to have to lean forward to type.
Not many people are huge fans of touch pads. They’re fussy and require finer motor control than a mouse you can hold with your whole hand.
A wireless travel mouse might feel too small to an adult, but it’s the perfect size for most kid’s smaller hands.
Verbatim Wireless Mini Travel Optical Mouse - Blue - 97471
The perfect size for kids' hands.
For just $10, you can also get an ergonomic mouse pad with gel wrist support. All these little steps will go a long way in providing your child with some extra support during long days of screen time.
An External Monitor
The screens of most school-supplied Chromebooks and laptops are pretty tiny, and not particularly high quality. Connecting your child’s laptop to a full-size monitor can help reduce eyestrain, and allow her to view multiple documents simultaneously.
You don’t have to splurge here, either. Kids don’t need a premium gaming monitor for schoolwork. Anything better than the tiny, low-resolution screen on their laptop will be a huge upgrade. A fairly generic 1080p office-grade monitor, like this HP VH240a, can offer so much more space than a Chromebook screen and look crisper, too.
HP VH240a 23.8-Inch Full HD 1080p IPS LED Monitor with Built-In Speakers and VESA Mounting, Rotating Portrait & Landscape, Tilt, and HDMI & VGA Ports (1KL30AA) - Black
The perfect, inexpensive upgrade for your child's workstation.
This is also a great example of where it pays to play the hand-me-down game with technology. If you have a basic computer monitor you’ve been thinking of upgrading for years, don’t spend $100 on a new one for your kid. Give them your monitor and put that $100 towards a nicer monitor for your own work-from-home setup. Everybody wins!
Make sure you adjust the monitor so the top is at your child’s eye level. You can raise it with a monitor stand or just a stack of books. Position it so it’s about an arm’s length away from your child’s face.
Alternatively, you can set your child’s laptop on this adjustable stand, and pair it with a keyboard and mouse.
Once your child is all set up, take a good look. You want her to be able to sit completely straight, without hunching forward. If you notice she’s leaning in, move the screen closer.
Staring at a screen for long stretches isn’t natural for anyone, but it’s especially challenging for children. Zoom fatigue is real! Try using an app or timer to remind your child to take regular breaks throughout the day.
Make good use of these breaks, too, by engaging your child in a classic gym class activity, going for a walk, having a stretch, or enjoying a snack.
Check out these tips for staying healthy when you work at a desk all day. They’re helpful for both kids and adults. It’s also never too early to teach your child about the importance of self-care. If possible, work on developing some fun hobbies you can do with your kids. Trust us, everyone will appreciate the break!
Learning at home shouldn’t be uncomfortable. With a little tweaking and a few product upgrades (or even a stack of books), you can improve your child’s experience and help him avoid backaches and tingly legs.