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Child Anthropometry – A Moving Target

Aug 27th, 2019

Kids grow constantly, changing dimensions even while they sleep!  That makes designing products for children’s safety a complex and challenging task.  That’s why high-quality anthropometric data are critical to the design of so many things that children interact with every day, like bike helmets, school busses and car seats.

Finding the Right Fit for Helmets

No amount of anthropometry can make a child wear a bicycle helmet if it isn’t perceived as ‘cool,’ but properly fitting and comfortable helmets stand a better chance of being worn than something that is either too tight or too loose. Anthropometry is critical in setting the overall shape of the helmet – the ratio of length to width – but also in identifying the amount of adjustability that can be included in a given size. 

Of course, as a child grows, parents will expect to replace the helmet periodically. Understanding the relationship between head size and helmet size helps the parent know when the helmet is too small and it’s time for a replacement.  Finding the right fit increases the safety margin at every age.  Anthrotech was the first in the US to use 3D scanning for children’s bicycle helmets. The resulting head forms can be used in the development process to optimize both size and shape.

Safety on the School Bus

School buses are another difficult product to design for both the driver and the children ranging from kindergartners to seniors in high school.  Busses require key anthropometric design features to ensure they are sized properly for children and drivers. As one of the most regulated vehicles on the road, buses are not only designed to be highly visible, they are also created with specific dimensions to ensure safety in crashes and collisions.

As a result, the location and development of interior and exterior features play a significant role in safety. Cross-view mirrors must be located appropriately with respect to drivers’ sitting eye height to ensure their ability to see passengers. And because seat belts are not typically used on the majority of school buses, a compartmentalized design is typically used with seats being placed close enough for seat backs to absorb shock in the case of an accident. Knowing the size of children is key to making the seats far enough apart that kids can get in and out easily.

Crashworthy Car Seats

Child car seats and booster seats are routinely and thoroughly tested for crashworthiness.  It’s less well known that they are tested for the appropriate size with respect to children.  Current regulations require the use of a car seat until the child is 4 years old and weighs 40 pounds.  But of course, those 40 pounds can be distributed in a variety of ways.

That anthropometric variability is key to designing the adjustability of the strapping mechanism, as well as the width and the depth of the seat itself.  The size and placement of the side panels at head level are also based on solid anthropometric data, taking into account the variability found in all those children who are 40 pounds or less.   

Overall, anthropometry performs a significant role in the day to day safety precautions so many of us take for granted. Whether it’s protection while riding their bike or protection while being transported to school in a bus or automobile, knowing about childhood size and shape is critical.

Ultimately, anthropometry truly allows us to create a safer world for our children, even if the kids themselves are unaware of it.

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