Backpack Ergonomics for Kids

Nothing says back to school like a new backpack. But how much do you think about how your child wears their bag and what they put in it?

It’s common for kids to feel back pain from carrying overloaded, poorly adjusted bags everyday. So, before you load up that new Minions backpack and send your sons and daughters on their way, consider these simple Backpack Ergonomics for Kids guidelines:

Choose the Smallest Fitting Backpack

Don’t get a huge backpack. If it has enough space for everything your child needs when they go camping or on holidays, it is too big.

Select the smallest backpack that will still hold the necessary items. While it may be tempting to get one that your child will use for years to come, this just isn’t healthy for a growing person.

A backpack should rest just above the waist when properly adjusted and not be larger than the child’s back. If it can hold a book, a lunch, and maybe some gym clothes, that’s enough.

Keep a Loaded Backpack to No More than 15% of Bodyweight

This is generally a safe limit for the weight of a backpack relative to the child carrying it. Children frequently exceed this, often with things that don’t need to be in the backpack at all.

Being kids, it’s pretty normal for there to be items floating around in the depths of a backpack without being touched for months in a row.

Have your children empty their bags out from time to time – those smushed granola bars and crumpled papers have a better home than your kid’s back.

Now, it can be challenging to stick with the 15% limit for lighter children. But, not everything has to go on the back.

It’s easy and convenient to carry lunch in a handheld bag. If your children need to bring bulky items to school – such as snowpants – they should carry them (or wear them!). Items that don’t need to be brought home everyday can stay at school!

Adjust and Use Backpack Straps

‘One-strapping’ isn’t cool anymore. It’s also dangerous –  you’ll end up leaning to the side to deal with the weight imbalance.

This puts excessive (and completely unnecessary strain) on the lower and upper back, shoulders, and neck, and could leave your child with an injury or discomfort from a very young age.

Tighten the shoulder straps so the pack is snug against the back. A loose backpack hanging down causes forward leaning and poor posture. Beyond this, it increases the likelihood of falling backwards, especially when running or in icy conditions.

There are two other straps on most good backpacks that don’t receive enough attention: the waist strap and the chest strap.

These two, which all too often hang idly to the side, are essential in improving upper extremity posture. Using the waist strap takes the load off the back and shoulders, transferring much of the weight to the hips.

It’s great to get kids in the habit of using these straps – and feeling the benefits of them – from a young age.

The Characteristics of a Good Backpack

We’ve been over size, fit, and straps, but there’s more to a backpack than that. When picking out a new backpack, aesthetics must come second.

Make sure the bag is made of lightweight material and has plenty of separate compartments. Not only does this stabilize the load, it also makes it easier to evenly distribute and organize.

There should also be plenty of padding on the back and along the shoulder straps to help cushion the load. Wider straps help with this, too.

Backpack Ergonomics for Kids

Children are especially susceptible to injury during growth spurts. That’s why backpack ergonomics are so important. Beyond that, we also just want our loved ones to be comfortable.

So take a look at what your kids are carrying. Help them build good habits. Get them a new backpack every year or two. If a backpack is still in good condition when it no longer fits, see if it suits a younger sibling.

Best of luck this year!

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