As a parent, you want your child to be safe when heading back to school. One item often overlooked, however, is your child’s backpack. Did you know that approximately 55 percent of children carry a backpack heavier than the recommended weight of 10 percent of the child’s body weight?
This means if your child weighs 70 pounds, she should be carrying a backpack that weighs no more than seven pounds when filled. Heavy backpacks can lead to shoulder and back pain, restricted lung function, and a leaning-forward posture that can hinder your child’s ability to walk safely.
Start the school year off right with the following tips from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) for choosing the appropriate pack:
Select a backpack that is the correct size for your child. Many manufacturers offer small packs for young children and larger ones for teens. To determine the proper size, the height of the backpack should extend approximately 2 inches below the shoulder blades to the child’s waist level or slightly above.
Choose a backpack with well-padded shoulder straps and a waist belt if possible. The waist belt helps to more evenly distribute the weight.
Once you’ve purchased a backpack, make the following adjustments:
Adjust the shoulder straps and waist belt so that the backpack fits snugly.
The bottom of the pack should rest along the curve of your child’s lower back.
Use a tape measure. Your child’s pack should never rest more than 4 inches below her waist.
Next comes the fun part: teaching your child how to pack her new backpack. Using different compartments of the pack, store heavy items in the back center. Pack lighter items in the front. Sharp objects, such as pencils, should be stowed away from the back. Make sure your child carries only what is necessary each school day.
Finally, to ensure your child’s backpack is a safe weight, use the bathroom scale. You want to make sure the backpack’s weight limit is no more than 10 percent of your child’s weight. Get rid of excess weight by having your child carry a heavy book or binder in their arms.
To learn more, go to the American Occupational Therapy Association’s website.