Pencils. Paper. Binder. Calculator. Lunchbox. Backpack. With kids gearing up for school right now, it’s important to do our role in preparing them to do their very best. Sending them off with a backpack is a seemingly simple item on many parents’ back-to-school checklists. As simple as it seems, however, choosing a backpack is something that should be done thoughtfully and carefully. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) started the National School Backpack Awareness Day to bring awareness to the pain and injury that can come from wearing backpacks and bags incorrectly.
Here are some general guidelines from the AOTA to protect your kids when they are wearing a backpack:
- Choose a backpack with padding on the back and straps
- A backpack with chest and hip straps is preferable
- Use different compartments and pockets to distribute weight
- Heavier items should be closer to the back center of the backpack
- Lighter items should be toward the front of the backpack
- Sharp items should be kept away from the back
- The weight of the backpack and its contents should be no more than 10% of your child’s weight
- Teach your child to pick up the backpack by bending and lifting in the knees, not the waist
- Always use both shoulder straps, adjust the sternum strap, and secure the hip belt
- The backpack should rest snugly against the back; it should extend from 2 inches below the shoulder blades to slightly above the waist
Some signs that someone is wearing a backpack incorrectly and/or one that is too heavy include aching back and shoulders, tingling arms, weakened muscles, and a stooped posture. Heavy backpacks can cause falls and spinal damage.
Help your child find and use a backpack that will be a helpful, not harmful, tool for school!