Don't be a bully. Don't talk to strangers. Don't do drugs. As a parent, there are certain things you expect to warn your children about. But don't carry a backpack that's too heavy? Who would have thought that was a must-have conversation with the kids? But, according to the experts, making sure your child is using the right backpack, wearing it properly, and not overloading it is vital to his health.
"Ideally, your child's backpack shouldn't weigh more than 10% to 15% of his body weight. But plenty of kids routinely haul around packs that weigh as much as 40% of their body weight," says Armin A. Brott in his book Fathering Your School-Age Child -- A Guide to the Wonder Years: 3 to 9.
Why is a heavy backpack such a no-no? More and more, experts are seeing younger and younger kids with serious injuries related to their packs. In fact, in addition to back pain, children are at risk of causing damage to their spines, necks, and shoulders.
- To make sure your child isn't carrying more than 15% of his body weight, throw his backpack on the scale from time to time. If it's too heavy, go through it book by book to figure out what he can leave at school or if he may need two copies -- one for home, one for school.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends buying a pack with wide straps, since narrow straps can dig into a child's shoulders. They also recommend using the waist strap to help distribute the weight better.
- Teach your child to load his backpack with the heaviest books closest to his body. This will make it easier to lift and help him maintain his balance better.
- Consider a rolling backpack. That way, if your son's load gets too heavy, he can just opt to roll it along behind him.