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Children with backpacks getting off the bus

Choosing a Safe Backpack for Your Child

By Dr. Vernita Peeples, Pediatric Partners of Hampton Roads

Backpacks are a great way for students to carry schoolbooks and supplies, but if they’re not worn correctly or are too heavy, they can be a real pain – literally – causing severe back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems.

Use the following guidelines when choosing the safest backpack for your child.

Your Child’s Backpack Should:

  • Weigh no more than 5% to 10% of your child’s body weight.
  • Hang no more than 4 inches below your child’s waist.
  • Be no wider than their torso.
  • Have two padded shoulder straps to help distribute the weight without digging into your child’s shoulders. Backpacks with just one strap do not distribute the weight evenly.
  • Be fully padded for maximum comfort and to keep sharp contents from injuring your child.
  • Have a waist strap to evenly distribute the weight of the backpack.
  • Be lightweight.
  • Have reflective material so children can be seen in low light.

Pack Smartly

Help your child determine what can be left at home and what can be left at school to help lighten the load. Heavier items should be packed first and lighter items should be packed last. Use the backpack’s multiple compartments to help distribute the load.

To Prevent Injury:

  • Encourage your child to use both shoulder straps. Slinging the backpack over one shoulder may increase curvature of the spine.
  • Be sure to tighten the straps so the pack is worn close to the body and is held two inches above the waist.
  • Encourage your child to keep some items in their school locker, if possible.
  • Remind your child to bend at the knees – not the waist – when wearing their backpack.

And finally, encourage your child to tell you if they’re in pain or if they’re feeling any discomfort caused by their backpack. See your pediatrician if your child is experiencing back or shoulder pain.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.