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Children's Rights - A Right to Comfort

Have you seen it too? Children on chairs perched up on their knees, trying to work at a table that is adult-sized?  Why do educators do this? And what does the National Quality Standard say?

I think some elements in the NQS challenge this practice.  Quality Area 2 focuses on the health, safety and comfort of children and the provision of adult-sized tables and chairs could be considered to impinge on a child’s right to safety and protection from harm. Often children are seated at tables with chairs that leave their legs dangling.  How does this promote independence? 

Work health and safety organisations campaign for the rights of workers in the workplace, but what about a child’s right to sit comfortably according to ergonomic research? Trying to work at a table sitting on your knees, with your arms higher than a 45-degree angle is uncomfortable and does not support the development of good posture.  Early childhood literature recognises that children should be provided with tables and chairs that allow them to have their feet flat on the floor so that they are comfortable and have optimum control of their upper bodies. 

Perhaps early childhood educators should consider and discuss the social justice and equity implications of the decision to provide adult-sized tables and chairs to ensure that this practice takes-into-account the needs and rights of every child at the service.  Is this a democratic practice?  Does this practice recognise agency?

Early Childhood Services working in this way should consider past incidents, critically reflect and ask themselves:

  • Do the children look comfortable?
  • Does this practice recognise the child’s right to seat themselves independently?
  • Are children falling off chairs?
  • Have these incidents resulted in injury or are they near-misses?

Educators should undertake robust debate and discussion and perhaps even a risk assessment to ensure that the provision of adult-sized tables and chairs is safe, inclusive, democratic and agentic.

Kerrie O'Neill, 2019.