Binders, notebooks, pencil pouches, lunchboxes, gym shoes, water bottles, laptops, jackets …..
Kids are heading back to school or have already returned and are carrying #allthethings in their backpacks! If you’re, like me, you’ve watched your kids over stuff their bags then hunch over to lug a heavy backpack back and forth to school. Over the years with three children, I’ve invested big bucks in backpacks, but would still cringe seeing that huge bag packed to the brim sitting on their growing frames. My kids were headed back to school and it was time to reach out to the experts and lighten the load on this backpack issue.
Our friend and RMB partner Dr. Alisha Davis, a Pediatric & Prenatal Chiropractor at Davis Family Chiropractic, is a staunch supporter of parents practicing backpack safety. During Back-to-School season she continually sees an increase of families whose children are experiencing discomfort or pain due to heavy or improperly worn backpacks. My middle school daughter and I visited Davis Family Chiropractic to learn more from Dr. Davis on what parents can do to practice good Backpack Safety.
Guidelines to Backpack Safety + Giveaway
As you finish reading all the helpful information in this post don’t forget to enter to win our Back-to-School Giveaway at the end.
1. Features to Look for When Purchasing a Backpack
- The right fit & size is essential. The backpack should never be wider or longer than your child’s torso and should sit comfortably on the lower back not hanging too low. Avoid buying bags that are too big or ones you think your child will grow into. More space in the bag means greater opportunity for your child to put more stuff in the bag. For example, Dr. Davis suggests that ages K-1st should start with a small size backpack and as they become older move up to a wider bag.
- Look for padding across the tops of the shoulder pad straps allowing the backpack to fit comfortably.
- Shoulder straps that are adjustable are a must. Daily checks and adjustments of straps will keep the bag from sagging & causing discomfort.
- Dr. Davis recommends that unless your child needs to have a roller bag try to avoid this feature. Kids tend to overpack roller bags leading the bag to be heavy when pulled. Also, children can develop curvature of the spine from pulling the bag on one side of their body.
2. Follow the 10% – 15% Rule
- Backpacks should only weigh 10% – 15% of your child’s body weight when packed. Heavy backpacks can strain children’s shoulders and back.
During our visit, Dr. Davis weighed my daughter’s backpack, and surprisingly it was 12 pounds. If packed correctly my daughter’s (who weighs 62 lbs.) bag should only weigh between 6.2 – 9.3 lbs at the most.
3. Tips to Properly Packing Your Backpack
- When packing the backpack, if possible, pack the bag from a tabletop position or chair. When it comes time to put the bag on this will allow kids to lift closer rather than lift up from the floor.
- Encourage kids to pack heavier items (i.e. binders, notebooks, books, laptops, etc.) in the back of the backpack allowing the back to support the weight. If packed towards the front of the bag children, begin to lean forward affecting their posture. If possible, have kids carry a book(s) in their hands to take some of the weight off of the heavy bag.
- Avoid packing your lunchbox in the backpack and encourage your child to carry their lunchbox up front with them in their hands to alleviate some weight from the backpack.
4. Practice the Sunday Night Backpack Clean-Up
- When preparing for school on Sunday night designate that time to clean out backpacks. Kids should remove old papers, books they’ve already read, unused pencils & crayons, gym shoes, jackets, trash, water bottles, etc.. Even taking the time to clean out that pencil pouch filled with 15+ mechanical pencils or broken crayons will help. Making this habit not only keeps your bag clean but will quickly reduce the weight of the backpack.
5. Weigh Your Backpack
- Remember the 10%-15% rule mentioned above. Create a fun game with the kids and have them weigh their bags pre-Sunday Night Clean-Up. Have them determine what the actual desired weight of their bag should be using the 10%-`15% rule and their weight. Once they’ve figured out the proper weight of their bag challenge them to see what they can take out of their bag to meet that desired weight.
6. How to Properly Wear a Backpack
If possible, as mentioned earlier, kids should try to pack their bag from a tabletop position allowing them to put on the backpack at a comfortable height to reduce strain.
- Backpacks should be worn on both shoulders. No one-shoulder carry!
- Remind kids to bend their knees to minimize pressure on the lower back when lifting their backpack from the floor.
- Make sure kids backpacks aren’t drooping to one side or hanging below their torso. If so, adjust straps to a comfortable position.
- When wearing the backpack make sure your child isn’t hunching over. Look to make sure their shoulders are even, and spine is straight when carrying their bag.
Extra Tips to Reduce the Weight of Your Child’s Backpack
- If your child has to pack a pencil pouch opt for a small zip pouch instead of a pencil box.
- For those schools that use the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) rule in which devices have to be carried back and forth to school, opt for a lightweight tablet instead of a traditional laptop.
- If your school allows for an e-reader (Kindle, Nook, etc.), try to download their favorite books, so they won’t have to carry a heavy hardback version or weighty paperback in their bag.
Backpacks are a valuable tool to every child’s school experience and when used correctly can be an asset to getting things back and forth to school. As your family is packing up backpacks and sending kids off to school use this Guide to Backpack Safety to help avoid injury or discomfort during this academic year.
If your child is experiencing back, neck or shoulder pain, headaches or discomfort from wearing their backpack, contact Dr. Alisha Davis at Davis Family Chiropractic in Raleigh at (919) 615-2257 or visit www.DavisChironc.com.