Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back to School

It’s hard to believe, but summer vacation is already ending, which means it’s time for back to school shopping!  One of the most important supplies you can buy for your child is a good backpack.  It’s the one supply they’re going to use all day, every day.  It’s really essential to get a backpack that’s good quality to avoid unnecessary strain on your child’s back.  I chatted with Heidi D’amore, a physical therapist at Total Rehab Care, to find out what to look for when you’re standing in front of a rack of packs, and how to properly use them.  A wheeled backpack is a good choice, but if your child prefers to carry their backpack, here are a few guidelines:  

  • Get a backpack with two, padded, wide, adjustable shoulder straps.  The one-shoulder bags distribute weight unevenly.
  • Go for the packs with a hip strap, waist belt, or frame.  In junior high, I distinctly remember buckling the waist belt when I walked home - it gives extra support so the shoulders aren’t taking all of the weight.
  • Make sure the back of the pack - the piece that rests against your child’s back is padded.
  • Individualized compartments help organize the pack- larger compartments are closer to the back, which helps put the heaviest, largest items close to the body.  The smaller compartments, further away from the body are for calculators, pens, erasers and things like that.
  • A wheeled backpack is also a good option for relieving stress on your child’s back.

  • Make sure both shoulder straps are used.
  • Adjust the straps so the backpack fits snugly against the back, 2 inches above the waist and below the base of the skull
  • Make sure the backpack does not sit low on the back
  • Strap the waist belt

Proper Packing:
  • Minimize what is carried – have your child bring home only what is needed that night, and take only what is needed for that day.  Be sure to clean it out on a regular basis (the end of the week may be a good time) to avoid extra weight from unnecessary papers. 
  • Fill the backpack from the back and use all of the compartments - heavier items should be close to the body, and the weight should be distributed evenly.
  • Keep the weight down - the American Physical Therapy Association suggests 15-20 percent of the child’s body weight

Keep an eye on the way your child carries his or her backpack - you may need to adjust the fit or reduce how much they carry if they struggle to get the backpack on or off, they complain of back pain, or if they lean forward to carry the backpack.

By Kayla Murphy

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