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How do I choose a backpack for my child?

Jonathan Y. Cho, MD
Family Medicine
The wrong straps on a backpack and a heavy load can cause harm to a child's neck and shoulders. In this video, Jonathan Cho, MD, of HCA Midwest Health, gives tips on how to find a backpack that fits properly and won't hurt your child's back.
Kids carry a lot of stuff. A backpack that is too heavy, poorly constructed or worn incorrectly can injure muscles and joints, cause neck or back strain and lead to fatigue. Choose a lightweight backpack with two wide, well-padded shoulder straps, a padded back and a waist strap. Pull both straps tightly enough so that the pack fits snugly against the back but doesn’t pull on the shoulders. Distribute the weight of items within the pack evenly on both sides and don’t overload it. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that backpacks not exceed 10 to 20 percent of the child’s weight.
You should choose a backpack for your child that will not hurt her back and will help her stay organized. Some specific things to look for when choosing a child's backpack:
  • lightweight material
  • a pack that's proportional to your child's size
  • wide, padded shoulder straps
  • a padded back
  • a waist belt, which can help distribute the weight more easily
  • multiple compartments for organizing stuff
Many backpacks today have wheels, but check with your child's school before choosing one, as some don't allow backpacks with wheels; these can also be tough to pull in snow or up stairs.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.