PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As you send your kids back to class this week, backpack safety is something to remember.
Overweight and poorly fitting backpacks can cause permanent damage to childrens’ developing bodies.
Occupational therapist and mom of 2 Katie LaBonte said it’s important to make sure your child’s backpack fits properly.
“If kids have too much in their backpacks, if its too heavy, it can lead to like tingling in their arms, or just some nerve pinching, which you know one or two days — not a big deal, but if you think about how often kids are carrying their bags over time, that can lead to more long term discomfort,” Labonte said.
It can also lead to long-term problems like spinal damage. But you can prevent that with the right size and fit.
“You want to see that the top of the backpack is right at the top of the shoulders and the bottom doesn’t go much past the top of their hip bone,
she said. “And then you just want to look that the bag is snug up against their back that they’re wearing both padded straps and that it’s not cutting into their armpits right here or into their neck there.”
Labonte said the backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of the child’s body weight.
“Its really tricky for the little ones, like Corrine is only 46 pounds — her backpack should only be about 4 and a half to 5 pounds, which adds up quick,” Labonte said.
Work with your kids to pare down what they need.
“There are things that you only have to send in one day, like gym sneakers,” she said. “Sending in a water bottle empty at the beginning of the day and leaving it on their desk or emptying it before they come home can really take a lot of weight out. Just really looking, like if you’re sending in lunch are they eating all of it, are they coming home with a lot of leftovers? And just adjusting some of those day-to-day things.”
You also want to make sure kids know the best way to pack it.
“You wanna have the heaviest stuff in back and then move to the lightest stuff in the front and to really take advantage of any side pockets that you have,” she said. “It’s a lot about how you’re distributing the weight.”
Labonte suggests weighing your child and backpack when it’s full to make sure it’s not too heavy.
Backpack Awareness Day is on Sept. 18 — that’s a good time to check the weight and fit of your child’s backpack after they’ve been in school for a few weeks.