The Importance of Posture and Positioning for Handwriting

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reading_homework_morneaushepell_socialmediaThe Importance of Posture and Positioning for Handwriting 

by Ashley Cooper

The other evening, I was at restaurant having dinner. I should have been enjoying the five course meal that was being prepared by the chef but instead I just could not get comfortable in my chair. The stool was too high from the floor and the bar where my feet were supposed to rest was much too low. I spent most of the dinner adjusting myself, shifting my body, wrapping my legs around the sides of the stool just to get comfortable. At one point, I even considered asking to move tables. It wasn’t until a friend pointed out my constant wiggling that I explained how uncomfortable I was. We checked around and realized the stool beside me had a higher foot rest, so I quickly switched seats. I finally could rest my feet, feel comfortable I was now able to enjoy my delicious meal and get back to the conversation.

Reflecting on this moment I realized how so many of my clients must be feeling when they are asked to produce work, sit still, attend and focus when they are not in a supportive sitting position at the table. As an Occupational Therapist, I talk often to parents about how poor posture and positioning can really impact a child’s ability to produce quality work. Something as simple as having their feet positioned flat on the ground can make a big difference.  Below are some important factors to consider when creating a work station at home or making suggestions for your child’s classroom set up.


Posture is the first ‘P’ I often discuss with families or teachers. Sitting with poor posture can put stress on your muscles, joints and ligaments. When children have unstable posture, they end up using excess energy to maintain their stability and balance. This can affect how they function and decrease their ability to complete fine motor tasks, school work and even to listen. Sitting with a good posture for writing increases stability and provides a sturdy foundation for written output and can increase attention and focus. ­­Poor core strength is often overlooked when addressing printing issues but it has a large impact on a child’s fine motor skills and abilities.

Some signs of poor core strength include:

  1. Resting their head in their non-dominant hand, or laying their head and arm on the table
  2. Leaning forward or close to the paper
  3. Moving around, shifting from side to side or turning their body
  4. Slouching in their chair
  5. Having their non-dominant hand hold the chair or hang beside their body
  6. Appearing tired or complaining of fatigue

A child’s posture at their table or desk should follow the “90-90-90 angle rule”

  • Their feet should rest flat with a 90 degree angle at their ankles
  • Their knees should be bent at a 90 degree angle and about 1-2 inches away from the seat of the chair
  • Their hips should be at the back of their chair and positioned at a 90 degree angle

If the child’s chair is too high or too low, there are quick fixes to remedy the issue. If the chair is too high, place a stool, book or box under their feet. If the child’s chair is too low, place something on the seat of the chair to make them higher like a book or a firm cushion.


posture_childrenssupportsolutions_morneaushepellPositioning is the second ‘P’ that I will also discuss. This describes how the child is set up at the table. Once their seat and desk are set up to follow the “90-90-90 angle rule” it is important to consider what good positioning for handwriting looks like.

  • The child’s body should be facing the table with their elbows in line with the desktop at 90 degrees
  • They should be seated with their back hinged at the hips slightly forward towards the desk
  • Their paper should be stabilized with their non-dominant hand
  • Their arm and wrist should be resting on the table
  • Their paper should be tilted up to the right if they are right handed and to the left if they are left handed
  • Their paper should be angled between 30-45 degrees for left handed writers and between 20-45 degrees for right handed writers

For many of us who sit at a desk all day at work, comfort is everything. We ask for ergonomic assessments of our work stations, request supportive chairs and do everything we can to reduce pain. It’s important to remember how often children have to sit in a desk too. It should be just as important to set up their desk appropriately to minimize discomfort, improve stability and in return increase productivity and work output.

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