Back-to-school shopping is just around the corner, and one of the hardest-working items your child will need is a backpack. The backpack is used every day and needs to handle a lot of abuse as children throw them on the ground, weigh them down with books and travel to and from school with them.
When it comes to selecting a backpack, it’s important—particularly with little kids—for parents to be involved in the selection process. You may be tempted to purchase the trendy, inexpensive backpack, but these types of packs can have a short shelf life and cause severe back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems.
As you hit stores and back-to-school sales, here are three tips to ensure you purchase the perfect backpack.
Design & Fit
One size does not fit all. Look for backpacks that are relatively proportionate to your child’s size—that fall approximately two inches below the tops of the shoulders. Backpacks with two wide, padded shoulder straps and back padding will protect their shoulders from excessive pressure. Waist straps are also a plus, as they can help evenly distribute weight to the hips and torso rather than the back. To increase safety, look for reflectors or reflective material to help with visibility if kids are walking at dusk or dawn.
Although compartments and pockets can help distribute weight, you don’t want one with too many. Kids tend to fill compartments with items they don’t need, which can weigh down their packs.
Speaking of weight, the American Occupational Therapy Association recommends carrying no more than 10% of your body weight in a backpack. Anything more can force children to slouch, hunch and compensate for the extra weight. Look for backpacks that are lightweight but durable material.
Take the backpack for a test run in the store. Place heavy items in the pack and have your child walk around the store. If you notice poor posture and shoulder redness, this may not be the best pack.
The best backpack may not be the one with the newest movie character or superhero, but it may be the style your child is looking for. For some kids, their backpacks are a fashion accessory. Have an honest conversation with them and make it a joint decision. They’ll be wearing the backpack all year, so you want to purchase something they will wear.
To identify a quality backpack, Consumer Report suggests inspecting these items before investing:
- Sloppy stitching or loose threads. This is a clear indicator of poor manufacturing.
- Raw or exposed fabric edges. Within a few weeks of use, the fabric can weaken and fray.
One last tip! If your child does complain of back pain, numbness or weakness in the arms and legs, take a look at the backpack and ensure it is being worn properly. If pain persists, speak to your Banner Health pediatrician. Happy shopping!