It’s an annual rite of passage — back to school shopping for new clothes and supplies. But with the pandemic in full swing from coast to coast and many school districts starting the year off virtually, those supply lists are looking a little different. A new study projects that while sales of clothing, accessories and regular school supplies will go down, back-to-school spending is still expected to reach $28.1 billion (about the same as in 2019).
So what will parents be spending that money on? Dr. Schuler shares his 2020 pandemic back to school list for items that will help create healthy kid (and adult) friendly workspaces at home.
A good desk
Students need a designated spot to do their school work. Not only does this help with organization but it helps keep them motivated to do their work. Ideally they should have a desk that’s appropriate for their age and height (consider a height adjustable desk if your budget allows). Whether it’s the kitchen table or a desk all of their own, a workspace should be sturdy, a height that avoids hunching over, and it should be accompanied by …
A good chair
Having a chair at the right height for your workspace is key to keeping your spine in the best position. Healthy posture is key! Smaller children might need an extra boost, so consider grabbing an extra pillow or cushion to get them to the right height. If their feet are dangling in the chair, place a box, books or a step stool under their feet for extra support for their back.
Most home chairs do not provide lumbar support to help keep your back straight. This is an easy and economical fix – roll up a towel and place it at the small of your back. This will force your back to remain upright instead of slouching over after many hours in front of the computer. Plus, you will feel much more comfortable at the end of the day with better posture!
External keyboard and mouse
Many children use tablets for virtual learning but have no keyboard. Using a separate wireless keyboard and mouse — at the right height where forearms and hands are level and straight — can help prevent nerve pain from hands up to the neck and shoulder. Keep in mind, your child will fare best if the keyboard and mouse fit their hands, so try to buy according to their age and size.
Stack of books
Yes, a stack of books or a sturdy cardboard box are a great way to raise the viewing height of your screen or tablet. Children and young adults are more susceptible to “tech neck” due to the amount of time they spend looking down to use a tablet, computer, or mobile device. To avoid long term pain or neck damage, make sure your computer is positioned at eye level and your neck is in its natural position.
For those kids who don’t like to sit at a table, a good lap desk turns any comfy spot into a workspace. A lap desk will help them sit in a healthier position, but shouldn’t be used for too long, as their posture may suffer, causing more back pain later on. It’s good to get your child used to sitting at a proper workspace as much as possible to maintain a regular schedule and upright posture, as opposed to lounging on the couch. Separating work areas and play areas will also make the school year feel more like “normal.”
Just as we would suggest adults get up and move around, parents need to be mindful about encouraging kids to take regular breaks throughout their school day. That will go a long way toward keeping them in tip top shape both physically and mentally.
Though the school year may look different this fall, it’s important to maintain a regular schedule, complete with a specified workspace for your child. The good news is there are plenty of cost-efficient ways to revamp your kitchen table and turn it into a virtual desk for you and your family. Be sure to schedule an appointment if you or your child experience continued back or neck pain due to uncomfortable work spaces. Enjoy the school year and stay safe!
Dr. Thomas Schuler is a world-renowned, double board certified spine surgeon; trained in both neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery of the spine. He founded Virginia Spine Institute in 1992 and is a recognized international leader in the treatment of neck and lower back conditions. Dr. Schuler is noted among the 100 best spine surgeons in America, and serves as President of the National Spine Health Foundation as well as Chairman of its Medical and Scientific Board. Learn more about Dr. Schuler.