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Do they know it’s Backpack Awareness Day? September 17, 2008

Just a couple of days ago I wrote a slightly off-topic post after noticing how potentially debilitating my older son’s backpack had become. I asked a bunch of questions ranging from why backpacks have gotten so heavy over the years to what we can do about it.

I had no idea that today, September 17, is officially National School Backpack Awareness Day, promoted by the American Occupational Therapy Association. So thank you, AOTA, for calling attention to a study that found six out of 10 students between the ages of 9 and 20 reported chronic back pain related to their cumbersome backpacks.

They can’t either lessen homework, concentrate homework on one particular subject per night, or make schools paperless– I guess they’re not in charge of that — but AOTA does have some tips I’m sure they won’t mind my listing for you:

  • Never let a child carry more than 15 percent of his body weight. (But what if his homework necessitates all the heavy textbooks? Still, check bullet #4.)
  • Load the heaviest items closest to the child’s back, at the very back of the pack.
  • Arrange books and materials so they won’t slide around in the pack.
  • Check what your child carries to school and brings home. Make sure the items are necessary to the day’s activities. (Great idea. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I think my 11-year-old uses his backpack as a locker.)
  • On days the backpack is too loaded, your child can hand carry a book or other item.
  • If the backpack is too heavy, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school allows it. (I can’t imagine a school requiring students to carry too-heavy books wouldn’t allow adaptation like this. If they don’t, please let me know and I’ll start a movement to forward OT, PT and medical bills to the school district–for each student’s whole life.)

For more tips on backpack safety, visit the AOTA Backpack Strategies page.

posted by Janie McQueen, author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever

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