If you’ve ever gone backpack shopping with a school-aged child, you know picking the right one is a big decision. The array of shapes, styles and patterns is matched by the range of prices. The modern backpack explicitly made for books has only been around since the mid-1970s, but it’s hard to imagine the time when books were carried using just leather straps.
Today, with the shift to laptops and iPads, students may not even need to carry textbooks, but backpacks are still considered a necessity. Many schools are doing away with lockers for safety reasons, so a child may have to carry everything they need for school, including after-school activities and sports equipment, with them the entire day.
The average sixth grader carries a backpack weighing 18.4 pounds, although some carry as much as 30 pounds. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child’s backpack weigh no more than 10-20% of a child’s weight.
A child weighing 100 pounds should have a filled pack that weighs between 10 and 20 pounds.
Children should be taught how to safely put on and take off their backpacks and the proper way to wear them to avoid back and shoulder injuries.
The backpack should always be worn with both shoulder straps to distribute the weight. Also, the straps should be tightened so the pack fits snugly positioned evenly in the middle of the back over the strongest muscles.
When packing the backpack use all of the compartments to distribute the weight more evenly. Make sure that the heaviest items are centered so there is not more weight on one side or the other, causing loss of balance or shoulder strain.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, when choosing a backpack, keep the following attributes in mind:
WIDE, PADDED SHOULDER STRAPS – Narrow straps can dig into shoulders, cause pain and restrict circulation.
TWO SHOULDER STRAPS – Backpacks with one shoulder strap that runs across the body cannot distribute weight evenly.
PADDED BACK – A padded back protects against sharp edges on objects inside the pack and increases comfort.
WAIST STRAP – A waist strap can distribute the weight of a heavy load more evenly.
LIGHTWEIGHT BACKPACK – The backpack itself should not add much weight to the load.
ROLLING BACKPACK – This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs.