Each September, the American Occupational Therapy Association promotes School Backpack Awareness Day. Read on for some tips to help your child wear his or her backpack safely this school year.
- Pack it light. A backpack should weigh no more than 10 percent of a child’s body weight. Remove unnecessary books, papers, supplies and clothing. If possible, keep some items, like gym shoes, at school so your child doesn’t have to carry them to and from school.
- Pack it right. Distribute the weight so the heavier items are closer to the child’s body. Arrange items so they won’t move around inside of the backpack.
- Put it on. Teach your child to bend at the knees when picking up the backpack. Avoid bending at the waist to prevent injury.
- Adjust and carry. The backpack should fit snugly against the child’s back and should extend from approximately two inches below the shoulder blades to the waist level or slightly above the waist. Always use both shoulder straps to avoid injury. If possible, wear a backpack that has a sternum and waist strap to help distribute the weight evenly.
Warning signs that your child’s backpack may be too heavy:
- Change in posture when wearing the backpack
- Pain when wearing the backpack
- Red marks on the skin from the backpack straps
- Tingling or numbness in the arms or legs
- Difficulty lifting the backpack to put it on or difficulty removing the backpack
If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, try reducing the weight of the backpack to no more than 10 percent of his or her body weight. If you find that your child’s backpack is consistently too heavy, then have your child carry a heavy item, like a large textbook, in his or her arms outside of the backpack. You can also consider using a backpack on wheels if your child’s school allows. Wishing you and your children a safe school year!