Is Your Child’s Backpack Too Heavy?

Picking out a new backpack for school is an exciting time for kids. Whether they choose one with a sparkly unicorn or the colors of their favorite sports team, they usually aren’t thinking about its functionality and safety features. However, there are some important considerations when picking out a book bag to help keep your child safe and pain-free. 

children with backpacks on

As the school year ramps up, backpacks seem to take on more weight. If they are too heavy, they may cause problems for kids, like back, neck and shoulder pain. That added weight may even affect your child’s posture and the alignment of their spine.

So, what are the signs the backpack weighs too much? If your child is struggling to put it on their back, having to bend forward to support the weight or experiencing tingling or numbness, you may want to evaluate if all of its contents are essential to bring home or if the backpack is practical. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recommends a backpack weigh no more than 5-10 percent of a child’s weight, so help your child determine what items are necessary to carry. 

When evaluating your child’s backpack, here are some features to consider for added safety: 

  1. Consider a backpack with wide, adjustable shoulder straps. A waist and chest strap are also useful to help distribute the weight. 
  2. There should be padding on the back and on the straps so it isn’t poking or digging into their body. 
  3. Consider a backpack with several pockets or individualized compartments to help position the contents more effectively.
  4. The size should not be wider than your child’s torso and it should not hang more than four inches below their waist. 
  5. A reflective material may help your child be seen, if walking to and from school.

It’s also important to help your kids wear their backpack correctly. While slinging their book bag over one shoulder may seem cool, it shifts the weight and may cause muscle pain. Encourage your child to use both straps and ensure they buckle the chest and waist straps, too. 

Your kids shouldn’t be distracted by neck and back pain at school, so consider these tips to help make it a successful year. If you’re concerned about your child’s pain and posture due to using a backpack, talk to their pediatrician.