Back-to-school basics: Choosing a backpack

There is nothing better than a brand-new backpack for back-to-school time in the fall! Unfortunately, backpacks that fit poorly or are too heavy can cause problems even for younger children, such as back, neck and shoulder pain, tingling or numbness, and poor posture. Keep in mind these tips when picking out a backpack, and when filling it each morning, to ensure your child’s safety and comfort all school year long.

young boy wearing a backpackQuality is key

Begin by picking out the right backpack for your child. According to the National Safety Council, a proper-fitting backpack should be no wider than your child’s torso, and hang no more than four inches below the waist. It should have a padded back and straps, adjustable shoulder and waist straps for distributing weight, and multiple compartments for positioning weight. And don’t forget to check for sufficient reflective material on the back to allow your child to be seen easily when walking after dark.

Stay strapped

A quality, ergonomic backpack only works well when worn correctly. When I was a child, the “cool” way to carry your backpack was to use only one shoulder strap. This may have been stylish on the elementary school playground, but it was not good for our small spines! Be sure that your child uses both straps, and that the straps are cinched so that the pack fits snug against her back.

Take only what you need

Don’t overpack! The American Chiropractic Association (“ACA”) recommends that a backpack should weigh no more than five to ten percent of the child’s body weight. One way to control against this problem is to purchase a pack that is only as big as your child really needs. Only pack those items which really need to travel back-and-forth between school and home, and load the heaviest items first and in the center of the pack.

Rolling with it

Finally, rolling packs have gained popularity in some areas. While on one hand rolling packs can alleviate some of the risk of injury posed by traditional backpacks, they also create their own risk by cluttering school corridors and creating a tripping hazard. Therefore, currently the ACA recommends rolling packs only for children who are unable to carry a traditional backpack.

Follow these tips to maximize your child’s safety and comfort when carrying their backpacks, and have a great back-to-school season!