About 70% of kids carry a backpack that is too heavy. Heavy backpacks can cause issues for growing kids and adolescents.
Experts suggest that backpacks weigh no more than 10% of a child’s weight. For a 70 pound 9-year-old, this would mean a maximum 7-pound backpack.
Backpack Do’s and Don’ts
Dangers of a Heavy Backpack
Carrying an overly heavy backpack can cause:
- Shoulder pain
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Poor posture
- Nerve problems (tingling in the hands and fingers)
- Trips and falls (from being unbalanced or from the space they take up on the floor)
Finding the Right Fit
The best way to start is to find the right backpack. A backpack should be lightweight and have two wide, padded shoulder straps that adjust. Additionally, choosing a backpack that has multiple compartments can help you evenly spread out the weight you are carrying.
A backpack is a good fit when the top is below the neck, the bottom hangs no lower than the hips, and the bag is not wider than the child.
At the store (or at home if you ordered online) have your child try on the backpack. Adjust the straps for fit and pack the bag with what they plan to carry. Then place it on a bathroom scale to check the weight.
Lightening the Load
You have found the perfect backpack and it is ready for the first day of school! But when you checked the weight, it was too heavy.
Here are some tips to lighten the load:
- Use a locker or desk at school to hold books you do not need to carry all day
- Use side compartments to spread out the weight
- Place the heaviest items closest to your back
- Carry your lunchbox with your hand
Signs Your Child Has a Heavy Backpack Problem
As the school year progresses your good intentions of having a lightweight backpack might get forgotten. Kids stick extra items in their bag that can remain long after they are needed, or they might carry books they do not use every day just so they have them.
Signs to look for:
- Your child has difficulty putting on and taking off their backpack
- Your child leans forward when carrying their backpack
- Your child complains of neck, shoulder, or back pain
If you see any of the above, offer to go through the backpack to remove items that are not needed and review tips to keep their backpack light.