It’s the first day of school, and your kiddo’s backpack is filled to the brim with everything on the “back-to-school” list. We have textbooks, paper, binders, folders, pencils, and more for each class. When you pick up the backpack, you realize your child is competing in the next muscle competition. At least, it feels that way, and that was just day one. The truth is that backpack weight matters and making changes now can help you and your kiddo have a successful and healthy school year.
Why Backpack Weight Matters
If you don’t like carrying it, then you can trust that your child doesn’t either. The issue isn’t just about carrying heavy items; it’s about what is happening to the body when you carry those heavy items. Heavy backpacks can cause discomfort or injury occurring in the neck, shoulder, and back because you tend to lean forward to compensate for the extra weight. Even just one day with a backpack too heavy can become problematic. Lugging around Hulk’s pack on a daily basis will not disappoint when it comes to tension and aches. Posture can even be affected long-term. We don’t want to see kiddo’s uncomfortable, especially from something that can be avoided.
How to Choose a Backpack
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the backpack weight be 10 to 20 percent of your child’s own body weight. If your seven-year-old is 50 pounds, then the backpack should only be about 10 pounds, at the most. That may not sound like a lot to work with, but at seven-years-old, it’s plenty.
The best backpack is padded both in the straps and in the back. It has wide shoulder straps that should both be used to keep your child balanced. That means no “one strapping” for the sake of looking cool. A backpack with many pockets can help distribute weight more evenly as well.
When your child has the backpack on, it should be a close fit to the body. You can also adjust the backpack so that the bottom does not reach past the lower back. Remember that a good backpack isn’t always the roomiest one. If the pockets add too much bulk, you are more likely to fill it to the brim. The bulk adds extra weight as well. Look for a smaller backpack that is functional, roomy, and sized well to your child.
A rolling backpack may be preferred in some cases, but keep in mind that this may not be an ideal option. If the school has stairs or narrow hallways, this type of backpack can get in the way of others walking and become a real pain rolling around. Consider the school’s setup and weather conditions (icy walkways, anyone?) before purchasing a roll-around.
5 Tips To Lighten the Load
We get it. Your child has classes that require that they bring items. Lots of items. We have some tips for you to get around some of these obstacles to keep the backpack weight at a minimum.
- Discard Extra Items: Easier said than done. How do we know that our child won’t need the item? Well, many schools (especially for younger children) have supplies for your child in case they forgot something at home. This means that the 10 of the 12 pencils can stay at home until your child needs to restock. Also, most children don’t need all 120 colors in the rainbow either.
- Clear Out Old Papers: On a weekly basis, help your child clear out all the papers or supplies they don’t need. This rule applies to old school work. If they need to use old papers to study for tests, allow them to keep a binder at home with older work.
- A Word on Textbooks: Textbooks can be heavy. Even just two textbooks can be too much for the back. See if you can leave the textbook at home if there are class copies. Some schools allow kids to leave their books in a locker and then they can carry it to class. Alternatively, search for a paperback or a digital format of the book. If all else fails and textbooks are the reason for heavy backpack syndrome, then talk to the school about solutions to help your child (and other children facing a similar issue!).
- Teach Your Child: There will come a day (and maybe it has already happened) when you are no longer in charge of your child’s backpack weight. They are filling everything on their own. Teach your kids what necessary items are and let them know that there are other options for the sake of downsizing, including leaving tech at home. You can also show them how to distribute the weight with the heaviest items closest to the back and bottom of the pack.
- Backpack Weight Check: If your child is operating most tasks on their own, you can still occasionally lift the backpack to make sure it isn’t too heavy. If you find that it weighs as much as a sandbag or close to it, help your child find a way to lighten the load. Besides, you have each other’s back!
Help your child keep their health and posture in check. If they’re complaining of any neck, shoulder or back pain, numbness or tingling in their arm, contact our team right away to schedule an evaluation with our pediatric physical therapists.