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How Heavy Is Your Child’s Backpack?

Parenting / September 20, 2017

When kids carry more than 10% of their body weight, injuries can lead to health problems lasting into adulthood

Schools are in session across the U.S. and more than 79 million backpack-carrying students are settling into new routines – some of which include bringing the same items home each afternoon. Think the books and school supplies that your child is carrying in a backpack slung haphazardly across one shoulder are harmless? Think again. Heavy loads can cause injuries and low back pain that often lasts through adulthood.

“A child wearing a backpack incorrectly or that is too heavy can be contributing risk factors for discomfort, fatigue, muscle soreness, and musculoskeletal pain especially in the lower back,” says Karen Jacobs, EdD, OTR/L, CPE, clinical professor of occupational therapy at Boston University, and an expert on school ergonomics and healthy growth and development of school-age children.

Luckily, preventing discomfort and pain is simple. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) offers the following tips for keeping kids safe while toting books to and from school:

  1. Always select a backpack that is the correct size for your child.
  2. Make sure the height of the backpack extends from approximately 2 inches below the shoulder blades to waist level, or slightly above the waist.
  3. Always wear well-padded shoulder straps on both shoulders so the weight is evenly balanced.
  4. Distribute weight evenly. Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back and balance materials so the child can easily stand up straight.
  5. Wear the hip belt if the backpack has one, to improve balance and take some strain off sensitive neck and shoulder muscles.
  6. Check that the child’s backpack weighs no more than 10% of his or her body weight. If it weighs more, determine what supplies can stay at home or at school each day to lessen the load.
  7. If the backpack is still too heavy for the child, consider a book bag on wheels.

Thousands of students, educators, parents, and health professionals will mark National School Backpack Awareness Day on Sept. 20 with backpack weigh-ins, backpack check-ups, activities, and special events.

To learn more about National School Backpack Awareness Day, visit

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Ty Knighten
Ty Knighten knows a thing or two about relationships and dating. A single mom from Calif., Ty decided to turn her experiences in love and relationships into a blog. Written with plenty of sass, her mission is to help women empower themselves to realize love, success and confidence through her articles. She writes about dating and relationships from the perspective of a single mom but adds insights that will help women and men as they maneuver through the confusing world of dating and relationships. You can reach her on Twitter @UHeardMeRight, on Facebook at The Sexy Single Mommy or connect with her on Google+ and Instagram at chocoty.

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on September 25, 2017

Perhaps as more things become digital backpack weight won’t be such an issue. I remember my books being SO heavy. My grandparents did purchase me a book-bag with wheels, but I was too embarrassed to wheel it around. Sigh.

    on September 25, 2017

    You don’t see very many kids rolling backpacks around nowadays wither but they need, too. I have noticed that kids in jr high and high school, at least where I live, get a set of books for home, so that they don’t have to take them to school each day.

on September 25, 2017

I don’t have kids – but I remember being one. In the later years of middle school, I probably had 5 textbooks in my backpack, plus notebooks and a lunch. I would take the public bus too. It was so rough on my shoulders, I’d come home exhausted everyday! I did eventually get a rolling back, and it made my life 10 times easier. Definitely a good suggestion.

    on September 25, 2017

    Those heavy books are no joke. I know your pain. I only wish they had invented rolling backpacks when I was in school.

on September 28, 2017

Very useful tips!!! My children don’t actually carry their bags for long but still I make sure to check them before they set out to school

on September 29, 2017

Great post, growing up, my backpack weighed a ton and I always think about this now with my girls backpacks!

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