27 January 2023

Handle with care: How to pack your child's school bag for good backpack health

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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kids being shown how to pack school bags

Eleven-year-old Layla Manwaring and her little brother Leo, 7, learn how to pack their school bag from Murrumbidgee Local Health District paediatric occupational therapist Georgia Bradbury. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Did you know that your child’s school bag shouldn’t weigh more than 5 to 10 per cent of their body weight?

A child weighing about 40 kilograms should have a backpack that weighs around two to four kilograms.

Murrumbidgee Local Health District paediatric occupational therapist Georgia Bradbury said a water bottle alone could weigh more than a kilogram.

“A tip is to fill it with ice, then add the water when you get to school,” Ms Bradbury said.

As parents and children prepare to return to school, Ms Bradbury said good backpack health for students was crucial.

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“It is very important to have good backpack health to protect their muscles and joints and also ensure they have good endurance and keep healthy and safe at school,” she said.

“If their backpack is worn incorrectly … if a child has a backpack slung over one shoulder, we are seeing that children tend to get pain in their shoulder and back.

“It is important to select the appropriately sized backpack and set it up appropriately for the child’s age and size, and ensure they’re protecting all the joints and muscles for long-term health.”

Ms Bradbury said if the bag is too big and heavy, it can cause poor posture.

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Ms Bradbury’s recommendations when choosing and packing your children’s school bags:

  • Choosing a bag that is a backpack is the best choice to distribute weight evenly by using both straps.
  • Select a backpack with well-padded shoulder straps – always use both straps to spread the weight evenly.
  • Adjust the straps so the backpack fits snugly against the back and doesn’t hang, and wear the waist belt if it has one.
  • The bag should sit snugly against the back, waistline or above.
  • Buy a bag with plenty of compartments to load heavier items closer to the body.
  • Load the heaviest items closest to the wearer’s back.
  • Pack other items in neatly to stop them from shifting around.
  • Don’t carry things that aren’t needed, and ensure the bag is cleaned out each day.
  • Ensure the backpack weighs no more than 10 per cent of your child’s body weight.

The Premier’s Back to School NSW Vouchers can be used towards school bags and other school supplies.

To apply for your vouchers and find registered businesses, visit Service NSW or use the Service NSW App.

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