Do you find yourself wondering when your kid’s heavy backpack became as big as them? You are certainly not alone. Schools systems around the country are eliminating locker use because they encourage bullying, disorderly conduct, and criminal activity. Locker less school systems see a dramatic improvement in students’ organizational skills and social conduct. Many educators believe that removing lockers have improved the learning environment for students. Since lockers are getting less used by many schools we need to find ways to reduce the weight of heavy backpacks for the sake of our children.
It may not make sense, but the heavy backpacks filled to the brim are the new reality that children have to bear.
Long term effects of heavy backpacks mean chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain. In addition, children can develop bad posture that can cause long term stress to the spine. In a study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine, researchers found that children actually compensate for the heavy load with a dramatic drop forward in their head and uneven posture due to fatigue; unlike adults who simply adjust their stride when tired.
Here are a few tips on how to reduce the weight of heavy backpacks:
A fashion show
Let your kid examine themselves with their backpacks on. If your child’s straps are so loose that the pack hits them below the lumbar section or his or her butt (it shouldn’t go much lower than their waist), help them adjust the straps into a tighter and more supportive position. Then have fun with it! Have them bounce around to show how their pack no longer slips and if they’re the strutting type, let them walk the walk so they can feel the difference!
Teach them to organize
Kids will have items they carry “just cuz” like Gameboys and toys. Empty the pack out and help him or her choose what is truly necessary on a daily basis. If they’re having problems leaving anything out (such as unnecessary electronic games) ask what day they might not need a necessary item such as a workbook and make that the “fun carry day.”
Distribute the weight
If the backpack has multiple pockets, use them! The more the weight is distributed, the easier it is to carry. Give them 60 seconds to fill the pockets and once the game is complete let them understand why it’s important to keep it that way! If their pack doesn’t have multiple pockets and your child complains of back pain, then you might want to look into getting them a new pack.
Heavy stuff goes in first
The organization of the largest compartment is important as well. Have your child place the heaviest items in the bottom of the pack and try it on. Then reverse the order and have them try that as well so they can feel the difference between weights distributed well and poorly. And if at this point you’re considering a wheeled option; keep in mind they don’t do well in crowded hallways and can be difficult to store during class!
Do a dry run
Researchers at the American College of Sports Medicine tested the effects of heavy backpacks on eight and nine years old students by asking them to complete a 200-meter walk with 9 lbs backpack and a 13.5 lbs backpack. Do the same with your kid and test the weight limit that their bodies can handle. There is no magic percentage (as previous studies have suggested) of backpack weight to body weight.
Enlightening your kids through encouragement and demonstration will boost their understanding of how things can affect their body and help them to make future mindful choices!