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Choosing a Backpack For Your Child

Summer is waning and kids are looking forward to going back to school soon.  As we prepare for the return to school, how are we supposed to decide on the proper backpack for our children? 

With such a wide variety of sizes, colors, and styles available, how are we to choose the best match?  

Susan Azadi

Written August 2015

by Susan Azadi BS, LMT, CHEK EC, CHEK HLC II

ErgoFit Consulting, Inc.

In addition to considering the outer appearance, it’s wise to consider how the backpack will affect your child’s health and well-being.  Choosing the wrong backpack can lead to back, neck, and shoulder strain and discomfort as well as spinal stress for your growing child.  Here is a list of ergonomic features to look for when making this important choice:

Thick padded straps.  Narrow straps can dig into the shoulders and inhibit proper circulation.

Straps that are long enough for your child.  Straps that are too tight can inhibit circulation. Straps that are too loose can make it impossible to secure the load your child will carry.

A backpack that is not too large for your child. The top edge of the backpack should sit about 2” below the top of the shoulders.  The bottom of the backpack should fit into the curve in the lower back at waist level, and never extend more than 4” below the waist.  In addition to the risk to your child’s back, a backpack that is too large can also pose a safety risk for others as it’s easy to inadvertently knock into other children or objects with a pack that takes up too much space.

A padded back. This both improves comfort and can protect your child from objects that may poke through the pack.

A lightweight backpack.  Carrying too much weight can put excessive stress on the spine and the muscles of the back, neck, and shoulders.  In addition, it may unfavorably alter your child’s posture and gait, and increase their risk of falling.

A backpack with multiple pockets and compartments.  This can help to distribute the weight more evenly.

A waist belt can also help evenly distribute weight and take pressure off the shoulders.

Reflective material can help increase your child’s visibility when it’s dark outside.

So go out and find that perfect match for your child, and reach out to us for more information about ergonomics and minimizing risks for musculoskeletal disorders.


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