By Michael Castleman

How can I tell if my kids' backpacks are too heavy

Q: How can I tell if my kids' backpacks are too heavy?

A: If you’ve been watching your youngsters head to school burdened by heavy backpacks, you’ve probably wondered if they’re doing their bodies harm. One way to find out is to weigh your kids, then weigh their fully loaded packs.

Ideally, a backpack should weigh no more than 10 percent of a child’s body weight, according to studies conducted in France and at Pennsylvania State University. When a backpack weighs more than 15 to 20 percent of body weight, the child is at significant risk for back, shoulder and neck pain, say researchers.

You can further encourage healthy backpack practices by teaching kids to load backpacks so that the heaviest items sit closest to their back, distribute the load evenly between the shoulders and adjust shoulder straps so the pack fits snugly against the back.

Finally, if your children regularly carry overloaded backpacks, consider getting a rolling pack that can be pulled instead of carried. Or lighten the load by obtaining two sets of textbooks -- one to keep at school and the other at home so your kids don’t have to lug them back and forth every day.

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Parenting - How to tell if your kids' backpacks are too heavy