Backpack Safety Tips for Your Children

Backpacks are getting heavier and heavier, which can have major repercussions for your child today and in the future. Choosing the right backpack and how it is used is important in protecting your child’s spine, shoulders and joints. Some backpacks when loaded with books, lunches and projects can weigh in excess of 20 lbs. For a 50-90 lb child that can be a quarter to almost half of their body weight they are lugging around!

Here are tips that you can use to help reduce the stress on your child’s body:

Suggestions for Parents

Purchase a backpack that is the correct size for your child, has padding on the back, and has wide shoulder straps.

Loading the backpack:

  • Place heavier items towards the back of the backpack.
  • Do not overload the backpack.
  • Place items evenly throughout the backpack.

Wearing the backpack:

  • When picking up a backpack squat with the legs instead of bending over at the waist.
  • Wear both shoulder straps.
  • Adjust the straps to fit snug against the back.
  • Fasten the waist belt (if available).
  • Adjust the backpack to rest in the curve of the lower back and no more than 4 inches below the child’s waist.
  • Assist your child with cleaning out/organizing their backpack once a week.
  • A child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10-15% of their body weight; if their backpack weighs more than 15% of their body weight have them carry the heaviest book in their arms.
  • Encourage your child to strengthen their “core” muscles by getting lots of physical activity during the day.

Suggestions for Teachers:

  • Print backpack safety tips on the back of school supply lists that are given to parents prior to the start of the school year.
  • Collaborate with other teachers on the school supply lists in order to reduce the overall weight of the backpack and promote resourceful use of materials.
  • Consider the overall weight of textbooks, notebooks, and supplies needed for the children to carry daily.
  • Keep in mind that a child’s backpack should be no more than 10-15% of their body weight; if their backpack weighs more than 15% of their body weight have them carry the heaviest book in their arms.
  • Communicate with children and parents about which items need to be taken home each day and which items can remain at school.
  • Teach backpack safety with demonstration in the classroom (i.e. proper packing, carrying, and lifting) as part of health education.
  • Identify class projects and research opportunities for children to educate their peers on backpack safety.
  • Encourage children to use their lockers or cubbies frequently in order to decrease the amount of items carried throughout the day.
  • Provide an adequate amount of time at the end of each day for children to pack their bags.

With these simple backpack safety tips, your child can be a lot more comfortable throughout the day, reducing the stress on their muscles, bones and joints. At Pediatric Therapies, our goal is to help your child reach their maximum potential. If they are having physical pains in their back, neck, arms or legs, then seeing our physical therapists early can make a big difference in their overall physical health and well being.