My youngest daughter headed off to kindergarten this year — all geared up with a new outfit, fresh school supplies, and a backpack that's literally three-quarters the size of her entire body. I looked for a smaller backpack to fit my little green bean, but the bag had to be big enough to accommodate her school folder, packed lunch and snack — all of which she takes back and forth each day.
When it's stocked with the basics, her backpack easily weighs three to four pounds, which is pretty close to the weight limit recommended by many pediatricians, 10 percent of her body weight. Add in the library books that she brings back and forth once a week or the snow gear that she'll carry in winter months, and her backpack will quickly exceed healthy recommendations. And she's only in kindergarten!
The American Occupational Therapy Association sponsored a National School Backpack Awareness Day this fall to make sure that parents, students and school staff consider the 10 percent rule when loading kids up with books and supplies. Following that rule, a 100-pound teen should only carry about 10 pounds in his backpack. But according to the American Chiropractic Association, the average child carries about 22 percent of his body weight each day.
Is your child's backpack too heavy? Pop it on the scale to find out. If she's carrying more than 10 percent of her body weight, see if you can pair down some of the items she brings back and forth each day. For example, maybe she can leave her reusable water bottle at school and fill it there rather than haul it back and forth.
If she is carrying a lot of weight, make sure the bag has wide shoulder straps that are adjusted so that the pack fits snugly on her back. Encourage your child to wear her backpack on both shoulders, which is fortunately the trend these days. Worst-case scenario, consider a backpack with wheels for kids who have a very heavy load to bring back and forth each day.