Beware The Preschool Chair

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They’re cute, they come in handy if you have to change a light bulb in a room where the ceiling isn’t too high, and kids who fall out of them don’t fall too far, but beyond that, preschooler-sized chairs are the worst. Why? Because kids sit in them…and sit…and sit.

They sit to eat, they sit to color, they sit to roll play dough into tiny balls and long snakes. They sit while mesmerized by screens, lectured by teachers, and bored by worksheets. They sit for hours every day–a 2015 study reports kids around the world sit for about 8.5 hours of every day.1 I’m no wizard with a calculator, but if you back that 8.5 hours of sitting, and another 9-10 hours of sleeping, out of a 24 hour day there’s not much time left for movement.

All that not moving is a problem. Angela Hanscom, author of Balanced and Barefoot, explains it this way:

“Over the past decade, more and more children are being coded as having attention issues and possibly ADHD. A local elementary teacher tells me that at least eight of her twenty-two students have trouble paying attention on a good day. At the same time, children are expected to sit for longer periods of time. In fact, even kindergartners are being asked to sit for thirty minutes during circle time at some schools.

The problem: children are constantly in an upright position these days. It is rare to find children rolling down hills, climbing trees, and spinning in circles just for fun. Merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters are a thing of the past. Recess times have shortened due to increasing educational demands, and children rarely play outdoors due to parental fears, liability issues, and the hectic schedules of modern-day society. Lets face it: Children are not nearly moving enough, and it is really starting to become a problem.”2

Mike Huber, author of Embracing Rough-and-Tumble Play and host of the Teaching With The Body In Mind podcast, writes:

“I believe that children under the age of eight should be moving their bodies more often than sitting still during their waking hours. Most of us wouldn’t think of stopping a baby from trying to pull themselves up to standing because we know that is how the baby will learn to stand and walk. But we often stop toddlers, preschoolers, and first and second graders from moving because we are busy “teaching” them. All children need to be moving.”3

So, how do we get kids moving?

Howsabout we get rid of the cute little chairs? All of them. Haul them out of the room. Maybe sell them on eBay, maybe slice a couple inches off one leg and put them on the playground as loose parts, but get them out of the classroom.

My understanding is that human children are able to color, roll play dough snakes, and do all kinds of other amazing stuff without the aid of cute kid-sized chairs. Get rid of the chairs and kids might get back to the rolling, climbing, and spinning, Angela says they should be doing. They might start moving, like Mike thinks they should.

Can’t get rid of all the cute little chairs? Boss won’t let you? Parents would be upset? How many could you haul away? How could you make your program less chair-centered and more movement-focused? How else could you get the kids in your care active and moving? What can you do tomorrow to promote active lifestyles to kids and help them build healthy habits?

Because as we age inactivity tends to increase{note],P00218[/note], and kids are already sitting or sleeping for 16 or more hours a day.

Note: Lisa Murphy and I talk about this topic in episode 421 of the Child Care Bar and Grill Podcast.

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Jeff is an early learning speaker, toymaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ who is really bad at getting his picture taken.