Family Life


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How to shop for the right backpack

Girl with backpack - how to shop for the right backpackShopping for a new school backpack is usually a search for the most fashionable bag, but picking the right backpack is important to your child’s health.

Backpacks that aren’t suitable for children can cause short-term issues like muscle strains and headaches.

Dr. Maya Pande, a chiropractor for the Pande Family Wellness Centre, explains that heavy or poorly-designed backpacks can lead to serious long-term effects. The discs in the vertebrae begin to rotate slowly when a child wears the wrong backpack for a prolonged time, which eventually leads to intense back pain and poor posture, she says.   

Ideally, a child’s backpack should weigh no more than 15 percent of a child’s weight. For example, Dr. Pande recommends that an average nine-year-old’s backpack should weigh no more than eight to 10 pounds, when full.

Dr. Pande offers seven tips for choosing the right backpack:

  • Support. Choose a backpack with visible support such as padded straps, a padded back and waist straps. These elements create additional support and protection.
  • Weight. Choose a bag that doesn’t weigh a lot on its own.
  • Size. Buy a backpack that’s size is proportional to your child’s size. “Don’t buy a child a teenager’s backpack and don’t buy a teenager a hiker’s backpack,” says Dr. Pande.
  • Straps. Two straps evenly distribute the backpack’s weight and increases comfort. “You want to carry a backpack on both shoulders,” she says.
  • Material. Choose a bag that is made out of lightweight material. Fabrics like canvas and flannel offer sturdy support, but don’t weight as much.
  • Pockets. Pick a bag that has many pockets, says Dr. Pande. Your child will be able to place items in different places, which will even out the weight distribution.
  • Avoid anything with wheels. Backpacks with wheels are not ideal if your child’s school has stairs. Also, it increases back and neck strains.  “Just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean that it’s good for us,” says Dr. Pande.

Dr. Pande also offers four tips to ensure your children are wearing their bags properly:

  • Test it out. Check the weight of your child’s backpack often. “If you need two hands to lift it or if it’s too heavy with one hand, it’ll be too heavy for your child,” she says.
  • Adjust the straps. Ask your child how comfortable they feel when the straps are adjusted. “The parent should be able to fit their hand between the bag and the child’s back.”
  • Pack the bag. “Pack only what your child needs for that day,” she says. Don’t keep unnecessary books and materials stored in the bag.
  • Space it out. Place the heavier items closer to the bottom of the pack. Also, pack the bulkier items on the outside pockets.

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