Backpacks: How heavy is too heavy?

Q: Our kids’ backpacks get heavier every year. How much weight can a child safely carry? 

A: This is an excellent question. Planning for what to put in a child’s backpack is an ideal opportunity to work with your child on effective school and homework planning. 

A number of health groups recommend that a child shouldn’t carry more than 10 percent of his or her body weight in a backpack. That means an 80-pound child shouldn’t carry more than an 8-pound backpack. 

In addition, having a backpack with two straps is a good plan. Make sure your child uses both straps and doesn’t just sling it over one shoulder. Purchasing a backpack with straps that are wider and equipped with extra padding is also a good idea. 

Effective and efficient packing of the backpack — with the heaviest items closest to your child’s body — can also be helpful. Use all pockets and compartments to distribute the weight as evenly as you can. 

Finally, help your child decide if he or she needs to carry everything throughout the entire day or if some things can be left at home or deposited in a locker at school for most of the day. 

If the backpack is still too heavy — and especially if your child develops symptoms of back pain, stooped posture, sore shoulders or tingling that radiates down the arms — it may be necessary to work with his or her teachers or doctor to come up with some different strategies.