We seem to have an abundance of backpacks at our house. We’ve got character backpacks from Dora to Spongebob to Power Rangers, plus several solid-color or print backpacks. With that said, every year, my kids want a new backpack to go along with all of their spiffy new back-to-school clothes. I don’t mind, as after a year’s worth of use, their everyday backpacks tend to get dingy and ratty-looking, and they’re demoted to use on sleepovers and on days spent at theme parks.
There are some things to look for in order to make sure that your child’s new backpack will be able to stand up to the rigors of daily use. Also, some features make it easier on your child when it comes to carrying it around, to and from school.
- A neutral pattern or color. Preschoolers and young elementary-schoolers might have their hearts set on Hello Kitty or Transformers backpacks, but once they hit the third grade or so, I’ve found that it’s best to discourage this. Their tastes change quickly at that age, and while your child may be an avid iCarly fan in September, she may be mortified by her former allegiance come June. Also, consider that since next year it may be you lugging the backpack through an airport or wearing it at Disney World, you might want to skip the My Little Ponies pack. Go for a neutral color that you can pass on to someone else without embarrassment!
- Sturdy materials. Kids swing their packs around, throw them on the floor, stuff them into too-small cubbies and lockers, and otherwise abuse them. A cheap backpack is not likely to be able to stand up to such mistreatment. Look for thick zippers, a lack of fraying, and durable fabric. If the pack looks like it might rip if dragged across the pavement, choose another one.
- Check for size. If your child carries a lunchbox and a water bottle, make sure that they will fit in the backpack without straining the fabric or the zipper. For middle school and high school students, remember that they’ll have a pile of books to lug around, too; take a good look inside and try to guesstimate how many big textbooks might fit.
- Padded shoulder straps. Discourage your kids from slinging the pack over one shoulder, as this can cause neck strain and back pain. Some padding on the straps will make it more comfortable to carry.
- Enough extra pockets for cellphones, lunch money, water bottles and the other little things that kids carry around. An inside key ring can be a great feature for a child who must let himself in in the afternoon.
- Light weight. Choose a backpack that isn’t too heavy, despite being sturdy. The total weight of your child’s filled backpack should not exceed 20 percent of his body weight; if your child weighs 80 pounds, he should carry a backpack weighing less than 16 pounds. While this isn’t always possible with increasingly heavy books, choosing a lighter pack will make it that much easier to stay under that limit.
Is there a certain type of backpack that you would recommend to others? What have you found that’s stood the tests of time and abuse? Share with our readers!