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Back to school? Pack for the back

Updated: Jun 8, 2023

Make sure your child is wearing their backpack correctly and regularly check it to make sure it remains comfortable as their body grows.

Growing backs

Spines are resilient and strong, but there are some sensible steps you can take to ensure your child’s backpack is comfortable to wear and to prevent unnecessary pain. The optimal weight of a schoolbag depends on your child’s strength, activity levels and the distance they need to walk while wearing the backpack.

Is your child's back right for them?
  • Choose a lightweight bag, with adjustable padded straps

  • The bag should comfortably and snugly follow the contour of your child’s back

  • The bag should sit no higher than 3cm above your child’s shoulders

  • The bag should not hang out from the shoulders

  • Your child should be able to look at the ceiling without hitting their head on the bag

  • The bag should not swing from side to side as the child moves. Try to get a bag with waist straps, which will help to transfer the weight of the bag to the hips, and take the strain away from the back and shoulders.

  • The entire loaded backpack should rest between the shoulders and the waist, held in place by the waist strap. Encourage your child to keep the waist strap buckled whenever she wears the backpack. This will also help her remember to use both shoulder straps.

  • Make sure the backpack doesn’t sit below the small of the back

  • Make sure your child uses both shoulder straps to distribute the weight of the bag evenly. Wearing a bag using only one shoulder strap curves the spine unnaturally, putting stress on the whole body.

  • Load the backpack so that the largest items are closest to the child’s back so that the weight will be evenly balanced. Many backpacks have smaller compartments and pockets for loose items. If your school backpack does not have any pockets, put the smaller, loose items in last, away from the child’s back.

Persistent back or shoulder pain?

You may need to adjust your kids' backpacks and/or reduce how much they carry if they:

  • struggle to get the backpack on or off

  • have back pain

  • lean forward to carry the backpack

If your child experiences persistent back or shoulder pain, you may need to seek further advice.

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