How to Pack a Backpack for School - The Safe Way

Did you know that if a backpack is too heavy, it can cause serious injury to your child? In 2013, nearly 22,200 strains, sprains, dislocations, and fractures from backpacks were treated in hospital emergency rooms, physicians’ offices and clinics, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission states.

how to pack a backpack for school

Among healthcare professionals, occupational therapists are on the front lines of backpack safety awareness and making sure parents and teachers are educated about the proper weight distribution for a backpack. Beyond just backpack safety, here are some occupational therapy tips for how to pack a backpack, as well as health and success in school from The American Occupational Therapy Association:

  1. Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back (the back of the pack).
  2. Arrange books and materials so they won’t slide around in the backpack.
  3. Check what your child carries to school and brings home. Make sure the items are necessary for the day’s activities.
  4. If the backpack is too heavy or tightly packed, your child can hand carry a book or other item outside the pack.
  5. If the backpack is too heavy on a regular basis, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school allows it.
  6. Distribute weight evenly by using both straps. Wearing a pack slung over one shoulder can cause a child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.
  7. Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps. Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms, and hands when too much pressure is applied.
  8. Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly on the child’s back. A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the child backwards and strain muscles.
  9. Wear the waist belt if the backpack has one. This helps distribute the pack’s weight more evenly.
  10. The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than four inches below the child’s waistline.
  11. School backpacks come in different sizes for different ages. Choose the right size pack for your child as well as one with enough room for necessary school items.
  12. Weigh your child’s backpack and ensure it weighs no more than 10 percent of your child’s body weight. For example, if your child weighs 100 pounds, the backpack should be no heavier than 10 pounds. One way to do this is to attend a weigh-in event near you.

A Backpack Awareness Day "Weigh-In" of 6th Grade students and their backpacks will take place on Wednesday, September 20 at 9:45 to 10:30 a.m. at Woodlands Intermediate School, 1810 Maple Ave, Huron, Ohio in Mr. Kastor’s Health Class. Occupational therapy practitioners from Firelands Regional Medical Center will provide examples of weighing backpack-wearing students or teachers at Woodlands Elementary School.

How to Pack a Backpack: What the Health Experts Have to Say

“We want to educate and empower the kids to make small changes now, so that they don’t have to address larger changes in the future,” said Lydia Rapson, MOT, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist at Firelands Children’s S.P.O.T. “Providing information to even one class on the importance of properly packing school items, wearing backpacks, or even carrying sports bags will make a difference.”

The goal of occupational therapy is to help children develop skills to enhance their daily life. Fine motor skills, motor planning skills, coping skills, self-help skills, feeding skills, sensory integration skills, and visual motor skills are crucial for a child's success in self-care, school performance and interaction. For children and adolescents, occupational therapy services are offered at the Firelands Children’s S.P.O.T. at our South Campus location.

Learn more about our pediatric rehabilitation services today.