As our kids march back to school, you may notice a drag in their step as they cower under the weight of their heavy backpack. You may be tempted to give in when your child begs for the bag with their favorite animal or cartoon character, but parents need to stay strong and keep in mind that the right backpack is an essential everyday item that will make or literally break your kid’s back.
NBC News recently spoke with an expert, physical therapist Karena Wu, about choosing the perfect backpack for your child’s back health and how this one purchase can be the most important school supply you buy. The best fitting bag is even more important today as kids lug around text books, binders, as well as e-readers, tablets and laptops.
But before you go choosing a bag, Wu points out that the weight they will be carrying day to day should never exceed between 10 and 15% of their body weight. Carrying more than this can lead to back pain and bad posture. She explains, “We’ve all seen the postural change that happens when a kid is carrying more than this; their shoulders hunch and round as the weight pulls them down and backwards.”
The first thing Wu advises parents to do when shopping for a new backpack is to make sure there are multiple compartments. This will help to organize all of the pens, pencils, book and folders as well as distribute the weight of these items evenly. If everything is in one compartment they tend to shift to one side and make the back more difficult to carry.
Thin, but durable material is also important so that more weight is not added to the bag than is necessary. Lightweight padding on the back and shoulders will also help keep your child’s back healthy and happy throughout the school year. And if you can convince your child to wear a bag with chest and waist strap buckles, this will add even more support. If your child must carry more than 15% of their body weight each day, Wu recommends a rolling backpack to keep the heavy items off their back.
Once you and your child have picked the perfect bag, both fashionable and comfy, Wu shares some ways to reduce unneeded back stress. Even though many kids may sling their bag over one shoulder, wearing the backpack with both straps at all times is ideal for the back. Also, tightening the straps in order to keep the weight of the bag close to your body will help to lighten the load. And lastly, as they wait in the pick-up line after school or stand around talking with friends - removing the bag during prolonged periods of standing can help to give their back a break.
What do you think of these tips to buying the right back-to-school bag?
What qualities do you look for when shopping for a new backpack for your child?