A Parent’s Guide to Backpack Safety

Summer is coming to a close and it is time to purchase new school supplies and especially, Backpacks. Instead of choosing the coolest new superhero or princess backpack, I encourage you to ensure that your child’s backpack fits appropriately.

A backpack that is too large or heavy, or even worn improperly, can be detrimental to your child’s posture and spinal health. Textbooks and school supplies are heavy and it is important to choose a properly sized backpack that will make sure that kids are staying safe this school year.

Size

Many children’s backpacks are more focused on bright colors and appealing to kids cartoons than they are on function. They are often oversized and impractical. When choosing a backpack, it is important to fit the bag to the size of the child.

Below, the top left image, demonstrates a backpack that is likely a little large for the child, though if the straps were shortened it may fit more appropriately. The right image demonstrates a bag that is slightly too tall and a little too wide. The boy in the bottom image has a bag that fits correctly.

A properly fitting backpack should reach from shoulder blade to shoulder blade and from the shoulders to just below the waist. Check out this article with a convenient drawing demonstrating proper landmarks for sizing.

A backpack that is too large will place stress in the wrong part of the spine and can be filled far beyond capacity.

Weight

Kids are little! A child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10-15% of their body weight. The forces through the spine from carrying a heavy backpack can be compressive and cause the child to stand with shoulders hunched forward, head forward, and a curved spine.

Packing the weight into the bag correctly is also important. Heavier items like textbooks should be placed closer to the body, while lighter/smaller items can be further forward. Weight can also be managed by minimizing how much actually goes into the backpack. Which books need to be brought home for homework? What can stay in a locker and what needs to be carried home or between classes?

Proper weight distribution comes from a number of factors in a backpack. The pack should be light when empty. Multiple compartments will aid in packing. Wide straps keep the pack from digging into the shoulders. A waist strap can help to stabilize the load.

Overall

A backpack can be fun and functional. If your child is small in stature, consider picking a backpack that is appropriately sized in a plain color and decorating it with patches or fun paints. Minimizing wear and tear on your child from their backpack can help keep them in great shape.

Do you have questions about backpack sizing? Talk to your local chiropractor to have them check your child’s fit!

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