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  • Dr. Liz Homan

Bookbag Wearing!

Most kids that are going back to school are back in school for the year! (I know a few preschoolers start next week, I hope they have a great first day 😊). And with back to school comes the carrying of bookbags again! I want to share a few ideas with you on how you child should be wearing their backpack! First, I want to let you know that backpacks alone will not cause major problems for your child, but when they are overloaded or worn improperly, they can lead to headaches, neck, shoulder and lower back pain!

There are many opinions on how heavy is too heavy for a backpack to weigh, but the general consensus agrees that the a child’s bookbag should not weight more than 10-15% of their body weight! If the bag is over 15% of the child’s body weight, health care professionals agrees that it can lead to severe back, neck and shoulder pain and may lead to headaches and other spinal discomfort. So, this means for your child that weighs 60 pounds, they should not carry more than 9 pounds in their book bag. For an 80-pound child they can carry around 12 pounds of supplies and for an 100 pound pre-adolescent, they should not carry more than 15 pounds! But what can you do to lighten the load so that they can maintain spinal health?

It is important to weigh your child’s backpack at least once a week and if it is over the 15% of their body weight, work with them to lighten the load. This could be taking out the extra book they are carrying around or emptying old papers from their folders or binders that they no longer need to bring with them. Tablets can also add a lot of extra weight so make sure they are only bringing what they actually need to have at school. Finally, look at their water bottles and see how much that is adding to their overall weight. Anna always comments how ‘heavy’ her bag is when her water bottle is full… I mean it does add a lot when all she has is one folder in her bag 😊

It can also be really beneficial to show your child the best way to load their backpack and the best way to wear it! When loading, the heaviest items should rest against the back so they should be loaded into the bag first. This will distribute the weight more evenly. If you child is carrying a laptop/tablet with them, it is advised to have that resting against their back. And then it is so important for your child to wear their bag properly! There are two straps on the bag for a reason. When it is slung over just one shoulder, that one shoulder is required to carry all the weight and may damage the developing spine! It is also important to have the bag synched tight enough that the bag is against the lower back and not hanging down too far as that puts more stress on to the shoulders!

One final note on this as I know most of you already have your child’s backpacks bought and in use, but it is really important to have a backpack that is designed for your child’s size! There are a lot of great options out there for smaller bags for preschoolers and then larger ones for the bigger kids! Please make sure that you are not putting a full size bookbag onto your preschooler! It will not fit right and honestly it will restrict their proper mobility by being too big!

Please let me know if you have any questions about any of this and if needed, I can talk to your child about the importance of proper backpack wearing! 😊

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