Tips for Backpack Use for Students

Does your child report neck or arm pain? Does your child report any tingling in their arms or hands? Does your child seem fatigued? This could be due to having a backpack that is too heavy or overpacked. Having poor backpack habits can cause a child discomfort, muscle soreness, fatigue, or even musculoskeletal pain. Below are some beneficial tips from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) on safe backpack usage for your child:

Tips for Wearing a Backpack 

  • Distribute the weight evenly by utilizing both straps. Avoid allowing your child to wear their pack slung over one shoulder. This can cause the child to lean too much to one side which can cause pain or discomfort
  • Select a backpack that has padded shoulder straps. This is to avoid pain and tingling in the neck, arms, or hands when there is too much pressure
  • Adjust the straps so that the backpack fits snugly against your child’s back. A backpack that is too loose can cause strain and pull your child backwards
  • Have your child wear the waist belt if the backpack has one
  • The bottom of the pack should rest on the curve of your child’s lower back. It should never rest more than 4 inches below a child’s waistline
  • Buy the correct sized backpack for your child. Backpacks come in different sizes for different ages

Tips for Packing a Backpack

  • The backpack should weigh no more than 10% of his or her body weight
  • Load the heaviest items closest to the child’s back 
  • Be sure to check what items your child is carrying back and forth to school and be sure they are necessary items 
  • If the backpack is too heavy, your child can hand carry items outside the pack
  • If the backpack is too heavy/overpacked on a regular basis, consider using a book bag on wheels if the school allows it

Remember the AOTA’s advice: Pack it Light, Wear it Right! 

Contact Chicago Occupational Therapy or call (773) 980-0300 to learn more about our services and how we can help your child flourish and grow.