woman with backpack

Have you picked up your child’s school backpack recently? Does it feel like a ton of bricks rather than school supplies for a day? Is your child’s backpack doing more harm than help to their joints, muscles and posture? Let’s talk backpack safety!

The start of the semester is the perfect time to start good backpack safety habits to avoid later issues. Here are some tips to help you and your child get off to a strong start:

Backpack safety tips:

  1. When your child takes off their backpack or puts it on, do they struggle? Is it too heavy? Is the backpack adjusted properly?
  2. Choose a backpack that is the right size for your child. They might look cute with that oversized backpack, but how many supplies does your first grader actually need? When the shoulder straps are tightened the backpack should be close to the body, and base of the backpack just above the waist.
  3. Padded shoulder straps and back can make the difference between a backpack your child can wear for a long period and one that just serves as a container.
  4. Show your child how to pack their backpack to optimize where the weight is carried. Textbooks and other heavier items should be packed so that they are closest to the body and centrally positioned on the back. We like to experiment with different techniques to show them it really does matter.
  5. Check your child’s backpack weight regularly. The Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America suggests that your child’s backpack should weigh no more than 15 percent of their body weight. If my six-year-old weighs 46 pounds, she should not carry a backpack more than six pounds. Her older sister who weighs 84 pounds shouldn’t carry a backpack heavier than 14 pounds.
  6. Have your child empty their backpack on a weekly basis to clear all the clutter (missing assignments, notes home, art, etc.).
  7. Remind your child to always use both shoulder straps, not just sling the backpack over one shoulder. A one-shouldered heavy backpack is a quick way to have a numb or tingling arm.
  8. Check in with your child to make sure that they’re not experiencing any numbness, tingling or muscle strain when carrying their backpack.

Next steps:

If your child does have back pain don’t ignore it. If it isn’t easily resolved with practicing backpack safety habits make an appointment with your child’s health care provider.

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