While most of us are past back to school time and back into the routine, it could be a good time to check out your child’s backpack—it might not just be the source of unfinished homework or that note your child was to give you three weeks ago, it could be the cause of injury.
How to ensure your child’s backpack fits
As the owner of many, many backpacks, they certainly do not all fit the same! Backpacks that have back padding, padded wider straps (2-3 inches), and hip belts or straps, and are made of a light-weight material can help. Canvas is a common choice, but nylon or rip-stop nylon may be equally good or better choices depending on the backpack.
Even as an adult, my current most used daypack is a small hiking backpack (about 12 litres), that I can slip my laptop inside in a pinch. It’s light weight, has great padding on the back, supportive straps, and hip supports. And, it’s small enough I have to think about what I load into it. Keeping the size contained in school backpacks may also help to decrease weight while allowing homework, lunches, and other necessities fit—but keeping non-necessities out!
The weight of the world
Kids should carry at most 10-15% of their body weight in their backpack.  Leaning forward when carrying a backpack can indicate the pack is too heavy—even if kids won’t admit it.  Figure out strategies to keep kids backpacks as light as possible—can your child keep a set of textbooks at home and school to avoid carrying them back and forth? Can copies of reading be sent electronically and the textbook be used in the classroom? Do gym clothes and extra shoes need to go back and forth daily, or can they come home only as needed? Can extra winter gear be stored in a school locker or in a drawstring bag on a child’s hook? While these items may seem light, even small things add up! Weigh their backpack every so often to ensure it’s not too heavy.
As well, while sometimes a kid’s entire binder of work needs to come home, a lot of the time, they may only need a few sheets of paper to do their homework assignments. I used to have a “homework binder” or folder where I could take only necessary sheets of paper out of my larger binder(s), and bring just the sheets necessary home.
More considerations on backpacks
If your child lives with a medical condition, their backpack is probably even more important: it may contain medication or supplies that could be life-saving. For children with medical conditions that involve fatigue or are exacerbated by exertion, ensuring backpacks are not too heavy can also have a significant impact on their health—even if they just want to be like everybody else, changes can be made to ensure safety. As well, our medical ID keychains make great additions to backpacks and help keep kids safe at school.
Make a note to do backpack checks and clean-outs regularly throughout the school year. After all, while you might not be expecting a moldy sandwich or 15 crushed granola bars to be nestled at the bottom… it’s better to keep things clean and lighten the load a bit!