If you have your child in a booster seat, you may not be doing him any favors. The thing about booster seats is they don’t necessarily boost your child’s posture. When my son Jordan was younger, we had a high chair for him. But after he graduated from infanthood, we made do with a booster seat, the kind that attach to the chair and are never the right height. We tried making it taller by putting various thick books underneath, but it would still always lean to one side. Ergonomic? Not. It never quite worked, yet we never quite realized it was a problem. I just thought of my son as Sir Slumps-a-Lot.
I told myself he was tired, or in darker moments, lazy. If you have a child who is a slumper, you know what I mean. They lean on their elbows, and often their whole body is cattywampus. What I finally realized, after my endless injunctions to sit up straight kept falling on deaf ears, was that Jordan’s posture was not willful disobedience but indicative of a larger problem with body awareness and motor planning.
The slouching, the low energy, the putting the clothes on backward each day, the struggle to get his shoes on, didn’t compute—in my mind—with my son’s intelligence. How could a child who has been reading since age 2 not be able to figure out how to put his clothes on? After reading the book The Out-of-Sync Child, by Carol Kranowitz, and getting some advice from a friend who is child therapist, I decided to take Jordan in for an occupational therapy evaluation.
The therapist confirmed that Jordan struggled with proprioception and postural stability. In her book, Kranowitz says “Proprioception gives us the unconscious awareness of our body that helps stabilize us when we sit, stand, and move.” Part of the reason he slumped was that his body was weak, and the therapist suggested some exercises to help him build strength. To help with the table slouching, she also recommended a chair that would let him sit so his feet were on the floor or on a level surface, with a 90 degree bend at the knee and hip.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but it seems like once you become a toddler, the amount of child furniture drops off precipitously. Babies have their own tubs, their own high chairs, their own beds, etc, but once you become a toddler, it seems you are out in the cold. Most booster seats for toddlers, for example, are flimsy affairs, leaving their feet dangling midair and rocking precariously from side to side. Some kids do just fine, but for children with sensory issues, alignment is key.
“Kids with vestibular issues, really want to be grounded,” says Kranowitz in an interview, “…Just as important as eating is that their feet are connected to the ground.” Once we started leaning about sensory processing, proprioception, praxis (motor planning), and posture, we realized the time had come to invest in a better chair. We especially wanted one with a footrest that mimics placing feet squarely on the floor.
It’s the kind of thing I wish I had gotten from the get-go, as most of these chairs such as the Svan, Stokke Tripp-Trapp, Keekaroo, come with a baby tray insert that enable the chair to function as a high chair. These chairs go from infancy all the way to adolescence, making it a huge return on investment (most cost around $200). We love our Svan, with its light, modern feel and posture conscious design. After we set it up, we introduced Jordan to his special seat. Love at first sit. His feet grounded, shoulders tall, he seemed to grow a few inches. And now his sister, whenever she can, tries to climb up on it, her way of bluntly letting me know she’s hungry. Both kids fight over the chair, a testimony to its kid-friendly mission. Jordan still puts his clothes on backwards occasionally, but at least he’s no slump.