Choosing the Correct Backpack for Your Child

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					       Choosing the Correct Backpack for Your Child
It’s that time of year again—back-to-school     Academy of Pediatrics recommends that
time! Many parents and children prepare for     before you purchase a backpack, look for the
that first day of school by doing some back-    following five criteria:
to-school shopping,
which often involves                               • Choose a lightweight backpack that
buying new clothing,                                 doesn’t add a lot of weight to your
pens, pencils, paper,                                child’s load. For example, although
markers, etc. However,                               leather backpacks look cool, they weigh
backpacks are one of                                 more than traditional canvas backpacks.
the biggest necessities                            • Choose a backpack with two wide,
for both college-aged                                padded shoulder straps. Straps that
and younger students,                                are too narrow can dig into shoulders.
and it’s important to                              • Choose a backpack that has a padded
choose wisely.                                       back, which provides increased comfort
                                                     and protects the wearer from being
There are so many backpacks to choose from,          poked by sharp edges (such as pencils,
and choosing the right one for your child is         rulers, notebooks, etc.) inside the
not always easy. Backpacks come in all sizes,        backpack.
colors, fabrics, and shapes—all of which help      • Choose a backpack that has a waist
kids express their own sense of style. As            belt, which helps distribute the weight
practical as backpacks are for those who use         more evenly across the body.
them, backpacks can cause strained muscles         • Choose a backpack that has multiple
and joints and back pain when worn                   compartments, which also helps
incorrectly.                                         distribute weight more evenly.

The human spine is made up of 33 bones          Although most backpacks come with two
called vertebrae, and between the vertebrae     shoulder straps, this doesn’t mean that your
are discs that act as shock absorbers. When     kids will use both straps!
something heavy—such as a backpack filled       Many kids wear their
with books—is incorrectly placed on your        backpacks over just one
child’s shoulders, the force of that extra      shoulder, which is the
weight can pull your child backwards. To        wrong thing to do. This
compensate, your child may bend forward at      makes the person lean to
the hips or arch his or her back, which can     one side to offset the extra
cause your child’s spine to compress            weight, and they might
unnaturally. Because of the heavy weight he     develop lower and upper
or she is carrying, your child might begin to   back pain and strain their
develop shoulder, neck, and back pain. What     shoulders and neck.
can we do about this? The American              Wearing the backpack
incorrectly can also lead to poor posture. So,                                                  1. Face the backpack before you lift it.
make sure your children wear the backpack                                                       2. Bend at the knees.
using both straps. It’s also a good idea to                                                     3. Using both hands, check the weight of
tighten the straps enough for the backpack to                                                      the backpack.
fit close to the body, and it should sit 2 inches                                               4. Lift with your legs, not your back.
above the waist.                                                                                5. Carefully put one shoulder strap on at a
                                                                                                   time; never sling the backpack onto one
Girls and younger children may                                                                     shoulder.
be especially at risk for
backpack-related injuries                                                                  Another Option
because they’re smaller
and may carry loads that                                                                   Another option to consider when purchasing
are heavier in                                                                             backpacks is to look for a backpack on
proportion to their                                                                        wheels. However, these types of backpacks
body weight. Doctors                                                                       may be less practical than traditional
recommend that                                                                             backpacks because they’re difficult to pull up
people—especially                                                                          stairs. If you’re thinking about purchasing a
children—carry                                                                             rolling backpack for your child, contact the
backpacks that are no more than 10–15                                                      child’s school first to be sure that they are
percent of their body weight. For example, if                                              allowed. Many schools don’t allow rolling
a child weighs 80 pounds, 15 percent of his or                                             backpacks because they pose a tripping
her body weight is 12 pounds. So, for an 80                                                hazard in the hallways.
pound child, the backpack and its contents
should not weigh more than 12 pounds—but
remember, lighter is always better.                                                        By following these guidelines, your child will
                                                                                           start off this school year with a healthy back!
Lifting and Positioning Backpacks                                                          For more information contact your local
                                                                                           county Extension agent.
Children also need to know how to lift and
position their backpack. Improper lifting can
cause damage. Teach your children these four
simple steps to safely lift their backpacks:

Prepared by Courtney J. Schoessow, M.P.H., Extension Program Specialist – Health, Texas
AgriLife Extension Service, August 2005.

    Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.
                   The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating

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