Column: Lighten your child’s backpack load


Commentary by Dr. Kris Homb

Are geography, geometry and other heavy textbooks weighing your child down? It’s possible.

While making sure your child has the right materials for his or her classes, take a look at your child’s backpack.

Choose a backpack that has two wide, padded straps, a padded back and a waist strap. Kids should hook backpacks through both arms, not just one.

Lighter is better

Many experts say backpacks should not weigh more than about 10 percent of a child’s body weight. So, a 100-pound child shouldn’t tote more than 10 pounds in a backpack.

Teach children to pack the heaviest books first. These items should be closest to the back. Try to limit the amount of time children lug their backpacks and remind them to stash items in their lockers when they can.

A Safety Checklist for Kids’ Backpacks

Carrying heavy backpacks or wearing them incorrectly can lead to posture problems and back, shoulder and neck pain. Here’s how to lighten your kids’ loads:

Pack it smart. Put the heaviest items closest to the center of your child’s back.

Buy a pack with a waist strap and make sure your children use it for heavy loads.

Tell your kids to bend with both knees — rather than bending at the waist –when picking up a heavy pack.

Make sure the straps of the backpack are wide and padded for comfort.

Tell your kids it’s important to use both shoulder straps. Wearing a backpack only on one shoulder could increase curvature of the spine and strain muscles.

You may notice the overloaded backpack problem beginning in middle school, as your child’s school and homework load increases. Although many schools have transitioned school books and equipment to electronic platforms such as laptops and tablets, it’s still worth watching so that your child’s back isn’t impacted later in life.

Dr. Kris Homb is a nonsurgical spine and sports specialist at IU Health North in Carmel.

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