Kids' Backpacks 101
Which backpacks are safest for kids? Plus, how to wear backpacks to avoid aches and pains.
Buy a Better Backpack
There are dozens of kids' backpack brands available to choose from, starting
at about $10 and running upwards of $25 or more. When you're shopping for the
new school year, here are some backpack basics to follow:
Two is better than one. While your child might beg for this because
it's what all the "cool kids" are carrying, avoid the sling-style
backpack, which has one strap that crosses the chest. "Using a backpack
with one strap, not two, puts all the pressure on one shoulder," says
Hennrikus, who is a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Children's Hospital in
California. "It pulls the shoulder down and can cause back, neck, and
shoulder pain." Look for a backpack with two straps instead, which splits
the weight of the backpack across the shoulders.
The thicker the shoulder pads, the better. "Padded
shoulder straps help prevent the straps from digging into your child's
shoulders, back, and neck," says Hennrikus.
Wheels optional. "Backpacks with wheels definitely ease the
burden of your child having to carry a lot of weight around all day," says
Karol. "But many schools have stairs, which can be difficult for wheeled
bags, and they might not fit in a locker." And they're pretty tough to roll
in the snow. Weather permitting, check with your child's school before you buy
a backpack with wheels.
The next trick is to pack the backpack properly.
Pack for Maximum Comfort
A backpack loaded with a day's worth of books and gear can be a heavy burden
for your child. Before you start packing, experts recommend a
simple set of guidelines to follow that will help you measure the weight of
your kid's backpack against his or her body weight.
"The AAOS recommends that a child shouldn't carry a backpack that
exceeds 15%-20% of their body weight," says Karol.
An easy way to test how much your kid's backpack actually weighs is to place
it on your bathroom scale. While it might not be exact, it'll tell you if
you're creeping into the red zone and putting your child at risk of developing
back pain. But err on the side of caution, explains Hennrikus.