Lighten Your Child’s Backpack Load
Are geography, geometry and other heavy textbooks weighing your child down? It’s possible. A new year means a new semester and a chance to re-stock on kids’ school supplies. While making sure your child has the right materials for spring classes, take a look at your child’s backpack. Dr. Rebecca O’Bryan, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Indiana University Health West Hospital’s Spine Center, offers suggestions for protecting your child’s back.
“Choose a backpack that has two wide, padded straps, a padded back and a waist strap,” Dr. O’Bryan says. “Kids should hook backpacks through both arms, not just one.”
Lighter is better. Many experts say backpacks should not weigh more than about 10 percent of a child’s body weight. So, a 100-pound child shouldn’t tote more than 10 pounds in a backpack.
“Teach children to pack the heaviest books first,” Dr. O’Bryan says. “These items should be closest to the back. Try to limit the amount of time children lug their backpacks and remind them to stash items in their lockers when they can.”
A Safety Checklist for Kids’ Backpacks
Carrying heavy backpacks or wearing them incorrectly can lead to posture problems and back, shoulder and neck pain. Here’s how to lighten your kids’ loads:
- Pack it smart. Put the heaviest items closest to the center of your child’s back.
- Buy a pack with a waist strap and make sure your children use it for heavy loads.
- Tell your kids to bend with both knees, rather than bending at the waist, when picking up a heavy pack.
- Make sure the straps of the backpack are wide and padded for comfort.
- Tell your kids it’s important to use both shoulder straps. Wearing a backpack only on one shoulder could increase curvature of the spine and strain muscles.
You may notice the overloaded backpack problem beginning in middle school as your child’s school and homework load increases. And although many schools have transitioned school books and equipment to electronic platforms such as laptops and tablets, Dr. O’Bryan advises it’s still worth watching so that your child’s back isn’t impacted later in life.