Flexible Seating

Benefits, Options and the How To.

The idea of giving children stools that wobble or chairs that rock seems counterintuitive to the desire for them to sit still and concentrate in class. Yet, that is exactly what happens when provided with flexible seating.

The comfort of their physical environment frees up their brain to concentrate rather than being distracted by trying to get comfortable.

Benefits include:

  • Increases movement for physical activity;
  • Calming as it provides sensory input and a way to release energy;
  • Increases blood flow to alert minds;
  • Activates core muscles to support postural stability when sitting for a period of time;
  • Encourages body awareness and autonomy as they are empowered to respond to their individual needs;
  • Comfort makes more relaxed students who are better able to focus;
  • Happiness – how can a classroom of bean bags, lounges, rockers and not feel inviting, comfy and fun?!
  • Social skills as it provides more opportunities for eye contact, problem solving and taking turns as opposed to set seating in rows.

Options include:

  • Wobble stools and fit balls for chairs;
  • Low tables and floor cushions;
  • Bean bags/ large cushions and lap desks/ folding tables;
  • Tall tables for standing;
  • Teepees with cushions (great when someone needs a calm space);
  • Mats for lying down to write in prone position (an OT’s favourite as this is a great position for building core, shoulder and arm strength!);
  • Rockers and cushions for floortime.

How To:

There is a wide range of options that enables schools to implement a seating option that best suits them. Some schools introduce flexible seating based on a needs basis while others have numerous flexible seating options available to the entire class.

  • Assess your mindset.
    • Visualise how you want your classroom to look – inviting, comfortable, collaborative?
  • Introduce slowly, especially if teachers are unsure.
    • Wobble stools or fit balls are great starters.
  • Cheap and cheerful.
    • Start with inexpensive options, rather than waiting for the next budget. Floor cushions and fit balls are all cheap!
  • Explain the rules.
    • The seating is a tool to help them feel comfortable and concentrate. If it becomes a distraction (or weapon!) then the privilege of choosing their own seating may be removed.
  • Provide choice.
    • Allow students to choose their seating, as much as possible, and realise that this will change throughout the day.
  • Provide multiple seats rather than singling out one student.
    • Chances are that at least a few students would benefit from a particular item.

We remain huge advocates of oodles of outdoor play and sensory breaks but for class time, flexible seating helps create a student-centered classroom to support alert and focused young minds to remain on-task.

Written by: Bron Lucey. Mother to 3 children who share her love of the finer things in life like mud, the outdoors and general mess. Occupational therapist in her spare time.

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