It’s Back to School time of the year again, which means new uniforms, books, lunchboxes and of course a new backpack. Backpacks can come in many shapes and sizes, but to ensure you choose the right one for your child make sure it has the following characteristics:
- The backpack is the right size for your child – A backpack should be no wider than the chest of the child who’s wearing it. The top of the pack should be no higher than the shoulders and it should not hang below the waist. If any of these are evident, the backpack is too big for your child.
- Lightweight material – this minimises how heavy the backpack is.
- Adjustable hip and/or chest strap – Straps around the chest and pelvis help to transfer the weight of the backpack off the shoulders to prevent muscle and postural fatigue. They also help make the pack more secure to minimise any bouncing and shifting as your child walks.
- Adjustable, wide and padded shoulder straps – Wide and padded straps reduces the risk of them digging into the shoulders and impacting on surrounding blood vessels and nerves, which can cause numbness and tingling down in to the arms.
- Padded back – This helps to support the lumbar spine and also prevents any sharp edges from poking into your child’s back.
- Multiple compartments inside – Packing using different compartments helps to distribute the weight of objects throughout the pack. It also helps to secure them so they cannot move around.
Once you’ve chosen a suitable backpack, you now need to ensure it’s worn correctly.
- Wear both straps – Wearing the two shoulder straps distributes the weight more evenly, which helps to prevent children from leaning one way or the other and developing bad posture.
- Adjust the straps – Adjust the shoulder straps to ensure the bag is kept close to the body. If the straps are too loose it can pull the child backwards, straining muscles and promoting poor posture.
- Position it in the right spot – Make sure the backpack doesn’t sit below the hollow of the low back to ensure it’s positioned over the strongest muscles.
- Pack it correctly – Heavier items should be packed closest to the body, moving to the lightest things at the front.
- Don’t overload it – A backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of body weight of the child wearing it. If you see your child leaning forward when they carry the pack, it is too heavy.
Now that everything is set up for your child, make sure you continue to monitor the position, the weight and the fit. Don’t forget that children grow so you may need to make adjustments throughout the year.