Open Accessibility Menu

Backpack Tips for Back-to-School Success

Backpack Tips for Back-to-School Success

September 18 is National School Backpack Awareness Day. While backpacks are a great way for children to carry school-day essentials, backpacks can also cause injuries. When backpacks are too heavy or worn improperly, they can cause back, neck, and shoulder pain or posture problems. These colorful and practical school-day helpers are designed to distribute the weight of their important contents among some of the body’s strongest muscles—when worn properly.

For a healthy school year, review these backpack tips, including how to wear them, how to pack them, and how to stay safe while walking to and from the bus stop.

Backpack Essentials: The Fit

Review this checklist for backpack success:

  • Wide, padded shoulder straps, as opposed to narrow straps, equally distribute the weight of a backpack across your child’s back.
  • Using both should straps (not just one) helps your child avoid strained muscles or curvature of the spine.
  • Make sure to tighten the straps. This keeps the backpack more secure and closer to the body. As a general guideline, the straps should hold the pack about two inches above the waist.
  • A padded back along your child’s back is more comfortable than the sharp edges of textbooks or other objects being carried inside.
  • Keep it light. The recommended weight for a backpack should never exceed more than 10 to 20 percent of a child’s total body weight.
  • If your child mentions any pain or discomfort as a result of carrying their backpack, be sure to mention this to your doctor or pediatrician.

Power Lunch: Backpack Lunches and Snacks

In addition to textbooks, a lunchbox can be stashed inside a backpack for hands-free travel to and from school. Let’s check the ingredients for a successful power lunch, one that will keep your child energized and healthy throughout the school day.

These school lunches pack a (healthy) punch:

  • Sandwich switch - Vary the bread used for your child’s sandwich to add variety and fun. Try tortilla wraps or pita pockets for a change. Look for 100-percent whole-wheat varieties that are low in saturated fat.
  • Veggie variety - Add lettuce and tomato to your child’s sandwich, but don’t be afraid to try some additional veggies such as shredded carrots, thinly sliced zucchini, or avocado.
  • Condiment fun - Use hummus in place of mayo for a fun, healthy option.
  • Leftover family favorites - Re-imagine your dinner leftovers as your child’s main lunchbox entrée. For example, use a leftover grilled piece of chicken in place of sandwich meat. Or pack up a favorite bowl of chili or spaghetti into a thermos.
  • Take a dip - Incorporate some fun dunking and dipping by including veggies with dip—hummus, salsa, or other healthy concoctions. Or, pair apple and pear slices with low-fat plain yogurt or peanut butter.
  • Pack together - Experts say that kids who help pack their lunches are more apt to eat those lunches, so give kids the freedom to choose their ingredients, with your guidance, and enjoy some family time in the kitchen.

Bus Stop Safety

Riding on a school bus is one of the safest forms of transportation today: Every school day, 25 million children ride buses in the U.S. And children are 70 times more likely to arrive at school safely by riding a bus instead of by car, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

But the real danger is the walk to and from the bus stop. More fatal accidents happen to school-age pedestrians between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., and 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., than any other time of day.

Here are some tips to help your family safe:

  • Be an early bird - Arrive at the bus stop in plenty of time, without rushing. Aim to be there about five minutes before the bus comes.
  • Back up - Make sure you and/or your child stands at least six feet from the curb while waiting. If there’s a bus stop line, make sure it curves along the sidewalk or yards, and not toward the street.
  • Don’t move until the bus stops - Wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and opens its door before stepping toward the bus.
  • Ten-feet rule - If your child needs to cross the street in front of the bus, make sure they allow at least 10 feet of space in front of the bus before crossing. Be sure the bus driver can see your child and vice versa. Never walk behind the bus.
  • Bus rules - Review the bus driver’s rules with your child. Make sure your child knows to stay in the seat. Do not put anything out the window—head, arms, or hands. Be respectful; loud noises can distract the driver. Backpacks should go on a seat or lap and not in the aisle—and don’t forget it on the bus.
  • Be a vigilant driver - If you’re driving children to school or a bus stop, keep an eye out for neighborhood children before backing or pulling out of a driveway or garage. Drive slowly.
  • Know the rules - Learn the school bus laws, which vary from state to state. Look for yellow flashing lights, which mean that a bus is preparing to stop, pick up, or drop off children. That’s the cue for drivers to slow down and anticipate a bus stop. When the lights are flashing red, that means the bus has stopped and children are boarding or exiting. Cars may not move until the red lights stop flashing.

We wish all families a successful school year and hope these tips help precious cargo (our children) arrive safely with the right cargo also stashed in their backpacks!