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Pack a Backpack

The American Occupational Therapy Association has published ten tips to avoid backpack-related health problems:

  1. Never let a child carry more than 15% of his or her body weight. This means a child who weighs 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a backpack heavier than 15 pounds.
  2. Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back and arrange books and materials to prevent them from sliding.
  3. Always wear both shoulder straps. Wearing only one strap can cause a child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.
  4. Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps. Too much pressure on shoulders and necks can cause pain and tingling.
  5. Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly to the child’s back. The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back, never more than four inches below the child’s waistline.
  6. Use the waist belt, if the backpack has one, to help distribute the pack’s weight more evenly.
  7. Check what your child carries to school and brings home to make sure the items are necessary to the day’s activities.
  8. If the backpack is too heavy, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school allows it.
  9. Choose the right size pack for your child’s back as well as one with enough room for necessary school items.
  10. If a student is experiencing back pain or neck soreness, consult your physician or occupational therapist.