Choosing the Right Backpack for Your Child as they head back to school is an important decision to make. Backpacks are a popular choice for a child’s schoolbag. They are usually sturdier and easier to carry than tote bags or shoulder bags. They come in so many different styles and colors that it is easy to find one your child will like. All of that is great, but choosing the WRONG backpack can lead to back pain and potential injury.
Moreover, they can be carried in a way that leaves arms and hands-free to hold additional supplies like a lunch or gym bag, or a delicate project or poster.
How to Choose the Right Backpack
Here are some tips for making the best backpack choice for your child:
Look for a backpack with wide, padded straps and padding on the backside of the bag. This helps distribute weight more effectively and insulate the back from the pressure of items in the bag. There’s a difference in the strap width between Elementary School backpacks and Middle School backpacks. A waist strap is a good option if your child will be carrying a lot of weight regularly.
Avoid any backpack that has a single shoulder strap, as it can cause back strain.
Bags with multiple compartments help distribute the weight, and can also help your child organize his items. Compartments also help keep lunch items that can leak or have condensation away from books and papers in the bag.
If your child carries a delicate electronic device such as a laptop, tablet, or e-reader, look for a bag with a separate padded compartment specifically for these devices.
Choose a bag that fits your child. Avoid backpacks that are wider than her torso. When the straps are on both shoulders, the pack should rest against the curve of her back. It should be no larger than 2″ below the shoulder, or more than 4 inches below her waist. Bags larger than this can cause back pain and injury.
Look for bags made of lightweight nylon or canvas. Leather backpacks can be more durable but weigh significantly more, and can be even heavier when they get wet, as they absorb water. Some schools are requiring clear or transparent security backpacks.
Check the zipper closely. It should be a heavy-duty zipper that is sewn securely in place and slides easily. The zipper is usually the first thing to break on a backpack, so it is worth paying extra for a sturdy, long-lasting one.
Choose a backpack that unzips about two-thirds of the way around the bag. A zipper that has a smaller opening makes it harder to find items in the bag, and one that opens further makes it too easy for small items to spill out and get lost.
If your child routinely carries a heavy load back and forth to school, a wheeled backpack may be the best option. Again, make sure the wheels are strong and sturdy, as they have to stand up to a lot of bumping and banging. Also, check school requirements first, as some schools do not allow wheeled bags.
If you can, take your child with you to the store. You can test out the fit and adjustability of the bag while you’re there, rather than have to return a poorly fitting one later. Also, if the child has a say in the color and design of the bag, she will be motivated to take care of it.
Once you have the right bag, take the time to show your child how to wear it correctly. Explain how important it is to take care of the back and use the bag properly. You might even try a “dry run.” Load the pack with a few books and have him wear it around the house or while running errands with you. Make sure he knows to tell you if the bag causes back pain, or numbness or tingling in his arms or hands.
After testing it out and making sure the bag is a “keeper,” use a permanent marker to write his name and school name inside the bag. By doing so, if the bag gets lost, the finder can return the bag without knowing your family’s home address or telephone number.
While it may be tempting to have your child’s back monogrammed with his or her name, be aware that strangers can use this to lure your child and trick them into thinking they’re a family friend.