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Heading Back to School: Tips for a Healthy and Safe Start

September 05, 2023 3 min read

Heading Back to School: Tips for a Healthy and Safe Start

The back-to-school season is an exciting time filled with new opportunities for growth and learning. As students prepare to hit the books once again, it's essential to consider their physical health and safety. One aspect often overlooked is how kids wear and load their backpacks. Let's explore some valuable tips to ensure a smooth transition back to school, with a focus on backpack safety and overall well-being.

1. Backpack Basics

Choose the Right Backpack

Start with a backpack that fits your child's size. It should not be wider than their torso or extend below their lower back. Look for padded shoulder straps and a waist or hip belt for added support.  Oversized backpacks can lead to injury, especially if they are packed completely full.

Distribute Weight Evenly

Ensure that the weight is evenly distributed inside the backpack. Heavier items should be placed closer to the back, and the total weight of the backpack should not exceed 10–15% of the child's body weight.  Your child should be able to remain upright when walking while wearing their backpack.

Adjust the Straps

Properly adjust the shoulder straps so that the backpack sits snugly against the child's back and the bottom of the pack rests in the curve of the lower back. This minimizes strain on the shoulders and back.  A chest and waist strap can help keep the pack snug to the body; this can help distribute the weight properly and reduce discomfort while wearing a backpack. 

2. Loading the backpack

Prioritise Essentials

Encourage your child to pack only what they need for the day. Eliminate unnecessary items to keep the backpack as light as possible.

Use compartments wisely.

Utilize the various compartments of the backpack to help distribute the weight effectively. Place heavier items closer to the centre of the bag, and use smaller pockets for small accessories.

Check Regularly

Encourage your child to clean out their backpack regularly to remove items that are no longer needed. This not only keeps the backpack light but also helps with organization.

3. Backpack-wearing Habits

Two-Strap Rule

Advise your child to always use both shoulder straps when wearing a backpack. This helps distribute weight evenly and prevents posture problems caused by slinging the pack over one shoulder.

Proper Positioning

The backpack should sit snugly against the back and not sag low or sway side to side. Ensure that it is worn at the right height by adjusting the straps accordingly.

4. General Health and Safety

Stay Active

Encourage your child to engage in regular physical activity to strengthen their muscles and support good posture.  Regular physical activity improves blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain and body. It's also a great way to burn off excess energy, possibly improving focus while in class.  Try to encourage your child to have ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over knees, and knees over ankles. Knees should be relaxed and not locked while standing. 

Healthy Snacking

Pack nutritious snacks and lunches to fuel your child throughout the day. Proper nutrition contributes to overall well-being and focus in class.  Balanced nutrition is essential for growth, recovery, and injury prevention.  Hydration should also be considered.  What is allowed can vary from school to school.

Good Sleep Habits

Maintain a consistent sleep schedule to ensure your child gets enough rest. Adequate sleep is crucial for concentration and mental health.  Sleep is also needed for physical growth and the neurological changes that youth undergo from childhood into adulthood. 

Open Communication

Create an open dialogue with your child about any concerns they may have about school or backpack discomfort. Encourage them to report any pain or discomfort that their back is causing so that adjustments can be made to reduce the risk of injury to nerves and other structures in the shoulders, back, and neck.

Remember, a successful return to school involves more than just academic preparation. By following these tips on backpack safety and promoting overall health and well-being, you can set your child up for a safe and enjoyable school year. Happy learning!

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice. Please consult a healthcare provider for personalized recommendations.