Whether it’s got bright colors, a fun cartoon character, or a sturdy daypack style, backpacks are an important part of your child’s daily routine. But what should parents consider when purchasing, fitting, and loading a backpack for their child? In its “Backpack Strategies for Parents and Students,” the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA) recommends the following:
- Backpacks should weigh no more than 10% of a child’s body weight
- Heaviest items should be packed closest to your child’s back, and lightest items should be packed into the front of the pack
- If your child’s backpack is consistently too heavy, consider using a rolling book bag
- Both straps should be worn in order to help align the spine; wearing a pack with only one strap can cause spinal curving and possible pain or discomfort
- Look for straps that are well padded to avoid too much pressure on the highly vascularized shoulder and neck area
- Adjust the straps so that the pack fits on your child’s back, resting against the lower back, rather than against your child’s hips and/or legs
- If your child’s pack comes with a waist belt, this can help distribute the pack’s weight more evenly
- Look for signs that your child’s pack might not fit correctly, including red marks on the shoulders, pain during or after wearing the pack, difficulty putting on or taking off the pack, or changes in posture
You can always consult with your child’s occupational or physical therapist with any questions about backpack fit.
For more information about backpacks, check out the AOTA’s website.