Every school day, students of all ages carry around books, school supplies, lunches, jackets and personal items as they travel to and from school and between classes.
A backpack is an essential item — everything from being a practical means of toting important belongings, to being a decorated reflection of the student’s personality and a symbol of their self-reliance.
Heavy loads, though, and improperly fitted backpacks can lead to back pain and even injuries. It is important for parents and school staff to be aware of a few safety basics when it comes to strapping on that pack.
How much weight is too much for a student’s backpack?
Properly fitted backpacks that are not too heavy can prevent injuries.
A child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 15 percent of their weight. If your child weighs 70 pounds, that means a bag weighing 7 to 10 pounds — which is a couple of books, a full water bottle, a jacket and healthy lunch — could be pushing it.
Finding ways to lighten the load can mean less muscle soreness, less fatigue and a happier student ready for academic success.
It’s simple to keep kids safe from the discomfort and pain that can be caused by backpacks.
- Select a backpack that is the correct size for the child — if it looks too big, it’s likely not the best size.
- Pick a backpack with padded shoulder straps.
- Find a backpack with a padded back for extra comfort.
- Pick a pack with extra pockets and use the compartments to distribute the weight evenly.
- If carrying heavy items is a must, consider a backpack that has wheels — if allowed by the school.
Wearing it right
- Keep the load light — if the student has to lean forward, the pack is too heavy.
- Heavy items should sit near the center and closest to the back.
- Encourage children to use both shoulder straps rather than hanging the back pack on one side.
- Secure the sternum strap and the hip belt.
- Check that the backpack fits snugly and rests comfortably on the back.
At the very least, helping a student be aware of the potential for injury can be helpful in prevention. Apply these basics to make a difference and set students on a path to healthy backpack-wearing habits.