Carrying too many heavy books to school may not be smart. When your child uses an overweight backpack or doesn’t carry it correctly, it can cause damage to their back and shoulders, and create long-term health issues.

Backpacks should fit your child properly and weigh no more than 10% to 15% of your child’s body weight.

So, how can you help your child keep their backpacks light and pack them right this school year? Read our top 3 backpack tips to find out!

Buy the Right Backpacks

Backpacks come in all different shapes and sizes. Choose the right fit for your child based on their age, size and specific needs.

It’s also important to involve your child in the selection process and empower them to pick their pack based on their organizational style. Children that are visual organizers might enjoy backpacks with colorful designs. Those who are spatial organizers tend to like bags that feel good and have extra padding and support. Chronological organizers gravitate toward packs with lots of pockets and compartments.

In addition to design, here are a couple of key components that every backpack should have. Select a pack that fits well with padded shoulder straps. The backpack should extend from just below your child’s shoulders to their waistline. It should rest in the curve of your child’s back – not below their hip bones.

Load the Day’s Necessities Properly

Your child should only carry necessities in their backpack. Identify what your child needs at school for the day and include those items.

But first, clear out the clutter and throw away any trash. Parents can help younger students clean their backpacks once a week. Older children should schedule a time in their planner – preferably the same day each week – to go through their backpack, binders, folders, and papers.

Teach children to get rid of items they no longer need and file important documents in a desktop filing system. Recycle broken pencils, crumbled papers and food wrappers. Discard trash, such as leftovers or chewed gum.

Once your child has cleaned out their backpack and you’ve determined what should go in it, load it strategically. Put heavier, larger binders and books toward the back. Then, place lighter, smaller items toward the front. Filling the pack this way distributes the weight and make it easier for your child to find things.

Wear Backpacks The Correct Way

Now that your child has selected the right backpack and loaded it properly, they should learn the correct way to wear it.

Just like any other weighted object, teach your child to bend at the knees when retrieving their backpack. Squatting to pick up or set down a backpack, instead of hinging at the waist, reduces strain on your child’s back.

Once they’ve picked up their backpack using proper form, it should be worn on the upper back using both shoulder straps.

Wearing backpacks improperly can lead to pain, fatigue and other health issues. Avoid carrying a backpack that has extended straps or sits too low. Adjust the shoulder straps so the backpack is aligned with your child’s back. Likewise, your child shouldn’t carry their backpack dangling from one shoulder. Toting a backpack that way can create an imbalance, straining their muscles and bones.

As children’s bodies grow, it’s important that we provide them with an environment that supports their skeletal structure and natural movement. Backpacks are a great way for them to transport the supplies and resources they need to be successful at school. And done correctly, carrying a weighted backpack can have physical fitness benefits. But, we need to make sure our children are wearing the correct packs the correct way with the correct amount of weight to minimize the risks for back pain and other health issues.

If you’re concerned or not clear about whether your child’s backpack is a good fit, contact our office. We’d be happy to evaluate your child’s use of backpacks and computers to make sure they’re using this equipment in a way that will have a positive impact on their bodies, as well as discuss any other learning-related issues they may be having.

About Skills 4 Life:

Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers a broad range of pediatric occupational therapy services in the Boulder & Denver area to help your child master age-appropriate developmental skills, become more independent, increase academic success & develop confidence. The experts at Skills 4 Life specialize in handwriting, keyboarding & executive function coaching, but also work with children on social & emotional learning, motor skills, self-regulation strategies & activities of daily living. Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers your child a safe, compassionate environment to learn the critical skills they need to be successful. Learn more about our team & services at, or you can contact our office by email at or by phone at 303.351.1828 for a free consultation.

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