Backpack Safety Tips!

If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram (which if you don’t, you should ????), then you know that Backpack Awareness Day is on September 18th!  

In the spirit of full disclosure, I grew up in a time when Trapper Keepers  reigned supreme and I don’t think we worried too much about the actual backpack, but times have changed! Backpacks have evolved quite a bit and there are always brands and styles coming in and out of popularity, but more important than fashion considerations are how that backpack fits and is utilized. Back pain and poor posture are issues we are seeing more and more in younger children and these tips can help!

What’s the right backpack for my child?

I have to admit, that when it come to my kids and backpacks, I try to go as simple as possible. While having some compartments can be helpful to balance the load, the backpacks that have a bajillion pockets, zippers and hidden pouches make me nutty as I’m constantly finding smooshed bananas or that field trip form that needed to be signed last week crumpled up in a hidden compartment and who needs that?  Here are some considerations when selecting a backpack:

  • If you can’t see your kid – the backpack is too big! Given all of the stuff that needs to go in it, it would seem like bigger is better, but that’s just not the case!  Make sure your child’s backpack is not any wider than their torso and does not hang down further than 4 inches from their waist.
  • Padding is helpful. Padded shoulders and extra padding on the back can be really helpful with shoulder and back pain – no one wants that math book jabbing them in the back as they walk down the hall!
  • Extra support straps are your friend. Waist and chest straps can help ease some of the burden off the shoulders and neck.
  • Choose reflective or bright colors and durable materials. Every little bit helps when it comes to safety – especially if your child walks or takes the bus and must cross the street. A reflective or bright color pack can be good choices to help your child stand out and of course, we don’t want to be back at the store buying another backpack in a few months so the more durable the material the better!

How heavy is too heavy?

With more and more schools adding technology to their toolboxes, it seems that many kids now have to carry some form of tablet or computer back and forth in addition to large textbooks.  This weight can add up quickly and ideally, a backpack should weigh no more than 10% of your child’s body weight.  If you’re finding that it’s consistently weighing more than that, here are some ideas to try:

  • Help your child strategize about what does/does not need to come home every day. Some kids get very anxious about not having what they need for homework, so they end up carrying things back and forth unnecessarily. Perhaps create a schedule that can be kept in a notebook or at home on the fridge to help your child think through what’s truly needed.
  • Consider a separate carrying case for a laptop or tablet.  This little tote from LL Bean got the teen stamp of approval from my high school freshman. Now we know that this means that there is one extra thing to remember to carry AND if that gets too heavy it can also throw off balance and posture, so this may not be the ideal solution for everyone
  • Consider a rolling backpack – there are a lot of different sizes and styles. However, make sure that your school allows this type of bag as they do tend to take up a lot of room and can be unwieldy in crowded hallways. 

How do I fit this all in? 

Five text books, a laptop, a pencil pouch, a sweatshirt and a lunch bag – oh my! If trying to pare down to the essentials still leaves your child with a bagful, here are some things that can help:

  • Aim for stability. Try loading the heaviest items closest to the back of the pack (up against your child’s back when they put it on) and make sure things are arranged in a way that prevents a lot of shifting and sliding of the items inside.
  • Utilize those additional supports. I know it can seem like you’re readying your child for a hike up the Himalayas, but the waist and chest straps are there for a reason. Especially if your child is walking to school, they can really help redistribute the weight and take the pressure off the back and shoulders.
  • But I want to look cool!  Ok, so this may be more of a factor for the older kids and of course they are not saying this out loud, but we know that they are thinking it! Even though my high schooler is essentially carrying a small child on her back, you would think that I had just suggested she wear my bathrobe to school when I tell her to put on BOTH shoulder straps instead of just one. We’ve all seen it, the kid trying to be cool while walking hunched over with a giant backpack dangling from one shoulder – perfect poster child for future back problems. 

This is a lot of information and chances are that you’ve already committed to a backpack for this school year, but good news! We at Galvin Therapy Center are here to help! If you have an appointment between September 16 – 20th, simply bring your child’s backpack in with you and we’ll do a quick weight check and you can enter to win a new backpack full of all sorts of goodies!

Sources:

AOTA – https://www.aota.org/Conference-Events/Backpack-Safety-Awareness-Day.aspx

https://www.aota.org/~/media/Corporate/Files/Backpack/Backpack%20Strategies%20for%20Parents%20%20Students.pdf

Mental Floss – http://mentalfloss.com/article/52726/history-trapper-keeper

National Safety Council – https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/safety-topics/child-safety/backpacks

Note: We were not compensated in any way for the recommendations or products linked to in the above post.

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