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Back to School Backpack Selection

By Lisa Valko, OTR/L, ITOT, BCTS
Occupational Therapist

In this time of uncertainty, we are trying to prepare for the potential return to our brick and mortar schools. There are so many questions about returning to school that we face in normal years, but this year is certainly a bit different.

As I prepare to send my kids back to school each year, including this one, a big challenge is the BACKPACK. Kids often want the name brand backpacks or the ones that all of their friends have, but being an occupational therapist I want my kids to have the correct size and the right fit for them. “There is a right size and fit to a backpack?” YES there is!

The weight and height of the backpack affects our children’s back health. The way they wear it also can affect the load on their spine and surrounding muscles. The American Occupational Therapy Association offers several recommendations for selecting a backpack:

  • The height of the backpack should extend from approximately 2 inches below the shoulder blades to waist level or slightly above the waist.
  • The shoulder straps should be padded and both straps should be worn. The shoulder straps should be adjusted so that the pack will fit snugly on the child’s back, and the bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back.
  • The weight of the child’s pack should not exceed 10% of their body weight. For example, if the child weighs 100 pounds his or her pack should not exceed 10 pounds packed. When packing the backpack the heavier items should be placed so they will be closest to their backs.

As we know, there are many types and brands of backpacks. Some manufacturers size back packs according to age, like L.L. Bean and Land’s End. The most important aspect of buying the backpack is the size and fit. We, as parents, don’t want to have to fight with our kids about a back pack, especially when they have found “the perfect” one. Be sure to they try it on and that it “fits.”

Our children face many challenges every day in school. If we can keep their backs healthy and keep them happy too, it is one less challenge they will have to face.

Does your child need help strengthening their ability to perform daily activities at home, in school, and socially? CSSMCW’s Pediatric Occupational Therapy may be able to help. Contact our experienced therapists by calling 814-467-3189.