There are many dangers we worry about as parents, but backpacks aren’t usually on the list. Surprisingly, this common item—which most kids use 5 days a week—can cause considerable physical problems if used incorrectly. To bring attention to this worrisome issue, September 20th has been designated National School Backpack Awareness Day.
The American Occupational Therapy Association suggest these tips to keep kids safe:
- Always select a backpack that is the correct size for your child.
- Make sure the height of the backpack extends from approximately 2 inches below the shoulder blades to waist level, or slightly above the waist.
- Always wear well-padded shoulder straps on both shoulders so the weight is evenly balanced.
- Distribute weight evenly. Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back and balance materials so the child can easily stand up straight.
- Wear the hip belt if the backpack has one, to improve balance and take some strain off sensitive neck and shoulder muscles.
- Check that the child’s backpack weighs no more than 10% of his or her body weight. If it weighs more, determine what supplies can stay at home or at school each day to lessen the load.
- If the backpack is still too heavy for the child, consider a book bag on wheels.
Another one that I’ve done is to weigh the backpack. (Try it and you’ll be shocked how heavy it is!) A lot of the time, kids carry way too much stuff that they will never use. Paring down is a great idea. All of these tips are easy to implement immediately, and with the exception of buying a new bag, won’t cost a dime.