RPM Physiotherapy

How to Gear Up Safely for Back to School

My daughter is starting junior kindergarten this September. I not sure who is more excited and nervous for this major childhood milestone, my daughter or myself. Our new school recently hosted an orientation night and while there was a lot of interest in learning methods and summer reading, the table that drew the most attention was the gear. What do they need? What size should it be? How should it be labeled? Should it be waterproof?


Like any good over-excited, type-A parent would do, I have started to buy back to school gear early so my daughter can use it over the summer and it will be one less novelty for her to conquer in September. When we went to buy her backpack, I remembered the teacher’s instructions that it needed to be something that could hold a file folder without bending, and set out to find the appropriate size.


Guess what? A backpack that can hold a file folder without bending is huge! My daughter is a petite three year old and there is a good chance she might be able to fit in this size backpack.


This is where my physiotherapist brain kicks in.


There is a lot of temptation to buy the newest, coolest gear. School recommendations are definitely important but should not come at the cost of some basic rules of biomechanics that keep our little ones safe.


If you are in the market for some new back to school gear for your kids, keep a few of these tips in mind before making your purchase.


1 – A backpack that can fit a full sized binder or file folder may be larger than recommended for small children. If it is really a must, make sure the straps are adjustable and the load is kept light.


2 – Teach your kids how to pack their bag. Try to minimize the number of books that go back and forth to school every day. Utilize school lockers and cubbies and only travel with essentials for the day.


3 – For older kids who might be required to carry a laptop or tablet as well as books, consider a bag that also has a waist strap to help balance the load.


Unsure if the weight of packed bag is too heavy for your child? Try this test.


Look at your child from the side while wearing their pack. If the weight is safely in their carrying capacity, their ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should fall in a straight line. If they are leaning forward or back, the bag is too heavy.

***Please excuse the gross exaggeration and totally bored expression of my less than thrilled 3 year old model***


4 – If your child takes a lunch to school, teach them how to fill their water bottle so they are not carrying extra weight. They should only leave home with enough water to keep them hydrated on their way to school and then refill once they arrive. This is a great practice to teach them proper hydration as they should be drinking more than one bottle of water during school hours, not just what is packed for them.


5 – Invest a good pair of running shoes. This isn’t just for gym class but to support them throughout the day. The recommendation for running shoe use is to replace them every 6 months or 500 kilometers. You may want to buy a pair now and a pair in the new year. Do not buy shoes that are oversized hoping they last longer. It is a tripping hazard and won’t properly support their weight.


6 – Set them up for success by choosing gear and clothing that is appropriate for their developing level of dexterity and fine motor control. Velcro and snaps can be a great tools for kids who have not yet mastered zippers, ties and laces. If you do introduce something that requires a new skill, practice with them a home before you expect them to do it independently at school.


We want our kids to be successful at school and that means acknowledging both their minds and bodies. By making good choices that support their success physically you ensure that your kids are more comfortable, less tired and ultimately ready to learn.


Now the important question. How many days left until September?

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