Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

The Basics of Backpack Safety
Back Care Now Means Fewer Problems in the Future

August 01, 2010

Children have to carry textbooks, folders, notebooks and various other supplies to school every day, so their backpacks can quickly become heavy. As a parent, how do you know if your child’s backpack is worn properly and light enough to prevent back pains, tingling arms and aching shoulders? Here are some tips:

• A good backpack will be lightweight and have two wide, padded straps. The straps should be tightened so the backpack is snug against the child’s back. This will prevent muscle strain and the child being pulled backward.

• Remind your child to always fit the two padded straps over his or her shoulders to help minimize back pain by distributing the weight of the bag over both shoulders. Research has shown that children who carry their backpack over one shoulder may lean to one side, causing the spine to curve, which may cause pain and discomfort (The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA), 2009). If your child’s backpack has a waist strap, have your child wear it to also help distribute the weight of the backpack.

• When your child carries a backpack, make sure it does not weigh more than 15 percent of his or her body weight. For example, if your child weighs 100 pounds, his loaded backpack should not weigh more than 15 pounds. If the backpack is too heavy, let him or her know that it is okay to carry a book or lunchbox in their arms to help lighten the load. If the backpack is too heavy, you might want to consider a backpack with wheels, if your school allows this (i.e.:

• Teach your child how to pack a backpack correctly. When you put books and other large or heavy items into the backpack, put them closest to the child’s back. To help ensure that items do not move around in the backpack while being carried, put small items into containers or use soft items, like a tee shirt or small hand towel, for packing support. Shifting items in a bag could cause a child to lose his or her balance and fall.

• Double check that all items in the child’s bag are absolutely necessary to take to school. Encourage your child to take out heavy items they do not need to limit the stress on their bodies.

Talk about and practice these tips so that you know your child is wearing a backpack properly and lightly every day. Your efforts can help prevent back problems now and in the future for your children and can also spur young ones to develop other habits for healthy, safe days at school.

Visit for more helpful tips on backpack safety.

Rosy Sandoval and Donna Suttles are Riley Safety Store Education Associates.