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Back to School Back Saving BackPack Info

Important Tips on Backpack Safety by Kristen Baker, P.A.-c., M.M.Sc.

It’s that time of year again when we send our child out the door, leaning over, with a heavy laden bag filled with pencils, pens, erasers, books, binders, water bottles, lunch boxes, and more!

Follow these steps below:

1. Pack it SAFE: the weight of the backpack should weigh no more than 15% of your child’s body weight; so, if your child is 45 lbs, then the bag should not weigh more than 7 or 8 lbs. A lighter bag is easier on the spine, and leads to less scoliosis.

2. Place the child’s heaviest items, such as books or binders closest to the back. Items that are sharp or poke-y should be placed in separate side pockets…pencils in the front pocket for example.

3. Tighten those straps! The backpack should not be hanging down low over the child’s buttocks…the bag should be tightened to fit over the back and top portion closer to the shoulders.

4. Two straps at all times…children should carry their pack on two shoulders, not one, so they are not leaning over to one side.

5. Consider wheels! If the back pack is too big for the child’s size, or is uncomfortable for the child, consider backpacks on wheels, sold at many online stores.

6. Keep “lunchables” in a separate pocket of the pack. Many packs now provide separate water bottle pockets. Keep food stored away from books, so there is no excuse for homework being late due to spillage.

7. Consider an ID tag that is kept inside the pack rather than outside…dangling items may get stuck and cause more harm than good, especially while entering or leaving the bus. Try to discourage dangling toys and other items from the pack itself, which add more weight.

8. Encourage your child to utilize the locker at school, and make regular trips between classes, if allowed. This will lighten the backpack tremendously!

9. If possible, keep an extra copy of a book, even a used copy, at home to prevent carrying of heavy books back and forth between home and school. If not possible, photocopy chapters ahead of time, to help lighten the load.

10. Remove unwanted items from the child’s bag…such as toys or even garbage! Consider allowing the child to carry a small pen-sized flashlight, in case the child needs one as it gets darker to make it a safer journey home if your child walks or has a short stride from bus to doorsteps!

Visit the American Academy of Pediatrics at healthychildren.org for more important safety tips regarding your child’s backpack.

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