So the time has come and it’s back to school. But before you send your little ones off laden with shiny new pencil case, notepads and lunch box, spare a thought for where they’re going to keep it all…
In the olden days a sturdy satchel will have done the trick, but these days many schools forego lockers and research suggests one-sided bags can do damage to kids’ backs.
Your best bet, say most parenting experts, is a solid backpack. But which one should you choose to help them cart the heavy stuff around all day long?
The first thing to remember is that backpacks that weigh too much can cause injury: often, backpacks can weigh as much as 40 per cent of a child’s own body weight, which causes serious strain.
Added stress comes from kids’ habits of carrying their sacks over one shoulder, causing an uneven load.
So rule number one is drill into your children that wearing their backpack over both shoulders is the only way to avoid back pain.
Rule number two is – well, there are a few rules to buying and wearing the perfect backpack:
Pick quality material
A kid’s schoolbag will take an awful lot of battering and the cheaper ones with flimsy plastic zips can rip and tear only too easily. Go for something tough and durable like canvas, burlap or thick nylon and make sure the zips are of good strong quality.
Think age appropriate
Infant and primary school kids won’t be lugging around the amount of books their secondary school siblings might, so keep their bags suitable for purpose: a light-weight backpack with a single pouch is usually more than enough.
Limit the weight
Medical experts recommend that children carry no more than 10 to 15 per cent of their body weight in their packs. This is because a heavy weight can pull a child’s posture backwards, causing them to compensate by bending forward at the hips or by arching their back – causing the spine to compress and leading to shoulder, neck and back pain. Consider what the backpack is made of, too – leather ones may look great but weigh an awful lot more than canvas alternatives. Use the bathroom scales to suss out what weight is optimum for your child.
Go for wide straps
Pick a backpack with two wide, padded and adjustable straps as tight, narrow ones can dig into shoulders and cause tingling, numbness and unnecessary strain. Adjustable is good because you should always aim to carry the pack on the strongest part of the back – not slumped down low or up too high.
Look for a padded back
Padding on the side of the bag that touches your child’s back is a good idea: it not only increases comfort but it stops sharp stuff such as pens and rulers from digging in.
Consider a waist belt
The extra support of a waist-fastening element can help to distribute the weight more evenly across the body
Rather than loading everything in to one single compartment, having separate sections can help the weight of items to be shared out more evenly.
Ban unnecessary items
As much as your pre-teen may like to take their comic annual into school, this will only add to the weight of the bag so insist they are kept for home use only.
Distribute the contents
Put heavier articles, such as textbooks, closest to the centre of the back and lighter items such as pencil cases in the outer and side compartments.