How heavy is your child's backpack? What can you do to make sure they don't carry so much weight? How much weight is enough? What can you do to make sure your child is not struggling to carry heavy school items?
We've all seen small children carrying backpacks that are heavier and bigger than them! They're too cute and you wonder how they do it! But is that healthy?
Issues with Carrying Heavy Backpacks
Heavy backpacks can cause back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain in children. It can also lead to bad posture and muscle strain. Wearing backpacks incorrectly can make these problems worse. We all want our children to not develop other long term health issues as they get older from carrying around a backpack full of heavy items day after day.
It is vital that we, as occupational therapists, emphasize the importance of backpack education to ensure our children are carrying backpacks the right way, with the right weight, and the right size.
A key initiative was started by The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). Raising awareness is a great step to ensuring children learn the right way to use backpacks. That's why AOTA has created a special day on September 21, 2022 for Backpack Awareness Day.
Guidelines Related to Weight and Backpack Arrangements:
Some guidelines that can help to make sure your child is not carrying more than they should are:
- The 10% Rule: A child’s backpack should weigh no more than about 10% of his or her body weight. So if your child weighs 70 pounds, their backpack should not be heavier than 7 pounds. You don't have to be exact, but make sure you adhere to a general rule of keeping 10% of your child's body weight.
- The Back of Pack: The heaviest items in the backpack should be closest to the child’s back (the back of the pack). Usually, those items are textbooks or binders and they fit nicely when you place them first in the backpack.
- Arrangement: Make sure books and materials are arranged in the backpack so they won’t slide around. This means that when you arrange the backpack, don't let loose items move around too much as it does not let the child have the right balance.
- Necessary items: Check what your child carries to school and brings home. Make sure the items are necessary for the day’s activities. Sometimes, children like to carry clothes, electronics or toys that are not necessary and add more weight to the backpack.
- Hand Carry: If the backpack is too heavy or tightly packed, your child can hand carry a book or other items. This will allow a child to distribute the weight to other parts of the body.
- Size: Make sure your child has the right size of backpack.
- Straps: The straps of the backpack need to be adjusted so the backpack fits snug to the child’s back and the steps need to have the right padding.
- Balance: Make sure the items are placed so that the materials inside the bag give the child balance and the child can stand up straight.
- Distributing the weight: If the backpack has the hip belt, advise the child to use the belt to distribute the weight of the backpack.
- Bags on wheels: If the backpack is still heavy, consider using a backpack on wheels.
Other ways to lighten the load
One way to reduce the amount of weight in your child's backpack is by checking with their school to see if there are any items that could be left at home or stored in lockers. If not, talk to their teacher about what items are being used on a daily basis and what items could be left at home.
Talk to children about the importance of carrying a backpack correctly and the importance of not carrying too much weight in their backpack. Make sure they know how to wear it correctly, with both straps over their shoulders.
Finally, since we live in a digital age, there may be a way to not have to carry textbooks and access learning material from a computer at school or at home.
Carrying a backpack that is too heavy can cause muscle strain, joint pain, and postural problems. It is important to adhere to the guidelines that the AOTA has recommended to make sure our kids are not carrying backpacks that are too heavy.
We all want our children to have successful futures and by raising awareness and following the necessary steps, we can help prevent backpack-related injuries.
If you have any questions or concerns, please consult our therapists at Kids Aboard Therapy by clicking here or calling us here. We can work together to help children carry backpacks the right way!
Happy Backpack Awareness Day!