Listen Live

It has become a back-to-school essential: The backpack. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors and styles, but there are some things you should know before you decide on just the right one.


What you do not want is an “out-of-whack” backpack.

Jean Polichino is an occupational therapist with the Harris County Department of Education. She said students can develop back and shoulder pain if their backpack is the wrong size.

For example, if your child has a small frame, he or she needs a small backpack.  She also encourages parents to teach their child how to load it properly.

“You want the heaviest items to be closest to the child’s back,” Polichino advised. “These days that’s as likely to be a laptop as it is to be a heavy textbook. But think about that as the backpack is being loaded.”

Shoulder straps should be padded and adjusted so the backpack fits snuggly. The bottom of the backpack should not be more than a couple of inches past your child’s waistline.

Polichino said parents should keep in mind thatmany schools have eliminated lockers, or students logistically just don’t have time to get to them between classes.

“Most of us think our kids go to school and they unload everything, and they’re not carrying it all day,” she said. “But that’s not usually the case, particularly if they’re a little older, and they’re going from classroom to classroom during the day. They’re taking everything with them.”

If the backpack is more than 10 percent of your child’s weight, it’s too heavy.

Polichino said that’s when parents should invest in a rolling backpack.

BACKPACK 101: How to Avoid Back, Shoulder Pain  was originally published on