How to Choose the Right Backpack for Your Child

September is right around the corner, and the kids are heading back to school and into their routines after the summer holidays.  One item on many kids’ back-to-school shopping lists is a backpack.  Choosing the right gear can be challenging, and the size of our kids’ backpacks increases with every new school year.  When driving by an elementary school, you can easily spot children that are lugging around bags that seem to be, in some cases, half the child’s size!

Bigger is Not Better

Many parents may not know that bigger is not always better regarding backpacks.  Those with larger bags tend to fill them with more school supplies like notebooks, textbooks, etc., making it easy to put too much load on your child’s back.  In school-aged children, the spine is continuously developing, and it is essential not to overload the spine to allow for proper spinal development and prevent backpack-related pain.  To help avoid this, your child must have a backpack that is an appropriate size for their body.

To help you find the perfect backpack for your child, we have highlighted some crucial tips on what to look for and how to use a backpack properly.

Quick Facts About Backpacks

  • More than 9,500 kids aged 5-18 received treatment in hospitals and doctor’s offices for backpack-related injuries in 2012
  • 79 million students in the US carry school backpacks
  • About 55% of students have a backpack heavier than 10% of their body weight
  • One study found that in US students 11-15, 64% reported back pain related to heavy backpacks
Child Lifting Heavy Backpack
Child Wearing Heavy Backpack

Tips for Proper Backpack Fitting and Use

We recommend that kids carry no more than 10% of their body weight in their backpacks: less is always better.  For example, if your child weighs 100 lbs, they should carry no more than 10 lbs in their bags.  To give you a better idea of what 10 lbs feels like, a large watermelon weighs close to 10 lbs.

Backpacks with tight, narrow straps can dig into shoulders and interfere with circulation, which can cause tingling, numbness, and weakness in the arms and hands.  As well, many kids are not using their backpacks properly.  Make sure they use both straps to help distribute the weight evenly and tighten straps, so the pack fits close to the body.  The bag should rest in the middle of their back (not sag to buttocks) to help with weight distribution.

You also want to ensure the backpack is never broader or longer than the child’s torso and never hangs more than 4 inches below the waist.  Remind your child to place heavier items close to the backpack’s centre to help with even weight distribution.

Features of a Good Backpack:

  • Must be lightweight
  • It has two wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back
  • It comes equipped with a chest and waist belt, as this will help distribute the weight more evenly
  • Has multiple compartments to distribute the load evenly

Give Us a Call!

If you have any questions or concerns about the fit and proper use of your child’s backpack, give us a call.  If your child is experiencing pain due to wearing a backpack, book an appointment with a physiotherapist at one of our four Edmonton clinic locations (Belvedere, Namao, or Riverbend).

At Innovation Physical Therapy, we are here to help you love getting better!