With children going to the school for the first time, especially to the first grade, parents have an important question of choosing a school briefcase backpack. Which types of briefcases to choose and which to avoid? And what if the child prefers a backpack before a briefcase? Is it suitable for them? Or what to focus on by backpacks? Such and many other questions are concerning many parents in this period. Mgr. Iva Bílková will try to give you satisfying answer and advice. An interview on the topic of choosing the right school briefcase and related questions was also done by mazagine Deník.cz.
MY CHILD IS GOING TO THE FIRST GRADE, HE/SHE CHOOSE BACKPACK INSTEAD OF SCHOOL BRIEFCASE. SHOULD I TOLERATE IT?
Backpacks are usually softer than briefcase backpack. The books and notebooks can form the backpack by its weight, which may not be ideal for the back of the child. For a first grader i would choose briefcase backpack, and for children in 3rd grade and above you can get a backpack with quality cushioning, which holds perfectly on the back of the child.
ACCORDING TO WHAT DO I CHOOSE THE BRIEFCASE?
As a first criterium i judge the weight of the of the briefcase. Then i look at whether it has sufficient ergonomic cushioning for the back, bigger width of cushioning for the back of the child, and cushioned shoulders straps help to spread the weight more evenly on the shoulders and back. The briefcase has to meet security requirement such as presence of reflexive patch with a minimal size of 2 x 5 cm.
THE MORE EXPENSIVE, THE BETTER?
This rule doesn’t have to apply in all situations, as it does by nearly all products. There can be quality products available (during sales, in august especially) and at the same time low quality briefcase can be overpriced by the seller. The competition between single stores and online shopping companies is good for the customer.
When choosing the briefcase, it makes no sense to observe how many parts you can get with the briefcase. The child only needs the briefcase, pencil box and some sack for sport clothes. You can get water bottle and lunch box separately or you may have it at home.
ARE THERE ANY CERTIFICATES? WHERE DO I FIND THEM?
There is for example AGR certification = Aktion Gesunder Rücken (in translation it means Campaign for healthy back). The label with this certificate has a picture with spine and a text which says it is a tested product. The briefcase which has a quality cushioning for the back, lower back and shoulders should have this label attached along with the price tag.
IS IT GENERALLY KNOWN THAT THE WEIGHT OF THE SCHOOL BRIEFCASE SHOULD BE AS LIGHT AS POSSIBLE? WHAT IS THE IDEAL WEIGHT OF FIRST GRADER?
Some producers show the weight on the label and the parent can easily learn the weight of the briefcase before buying it. Ideally the briefcase should weigh around 800 - 1200 g. Although the weight cannot affect the constructional parameters (according to the second question “according to what to choose the briefcase?”)
HOW DOES THE WEIGHT CHANGE WITH AGE?
When my first child started to go to the first grade, i weighed the books, which my daughter carried daily to the school and back. My daughter had to bring even slippers, lunch and water. I compared this weight with the weight of my daughter and i came to astounding results. My daughter carried about 20 - 25% of her physical weight. If we transfer such weight on the weight of an adult, then every adult weighing 70 kg would have to carry daily 14 - 17,5 kg. We have to acknowledge that it is alarming if we take into account that children are fragile and their bones are not sufficiently ossified yet, therefore they are softer and easily deformed.
As the child ages, the weight of the briefcase remains approximately the same, it does not go over 1500 g, but there is a significant change in the amount of books and notebooks which the child has to carry to the school.
SOME SCHOOLS REPLACE THE SCHOOL NEEDS WITH TABLETS, IN ORDER TO DECREASE THE WEIGHT OF THE BAG. WOULD YOU RECOMMEND IT?
I consider this a good step. IPad’s for children, etc., will not only save weight in their backpack, but education and the associated technology used are much further than it was 30-40 years ago. Children need to learn how to work with devices they will use for their livelihood one day. When we went to school, we had to read and write and count. This is not enough today. For example working with the Internet as a useful source of information, but being also aware of the potential danger, I would introduce that as a compulsory subject from the first grade. As inadequate in terms of fine motor skills, I can see that some schools are not teaching how to type on the keyboards at all. Children and adults type with one finger and they look at the keyboard slouching their backs, instead of looking straight at the text that appears on the screen. Such coordination is not ergonomically beneficial to the body, because eyes get tired faster, concentration gets worse, as well as neck and back etc.
HOW ELSE TO DECREASE THE WEIGHT OF THE BRIEFCASE?
If you want to affect the weight of the briefcase even during normal use, minimize the content to the least possible weight.
Talk with the teacher so maybe you could get two books - one is used in school, the second one at home. Some smart/aware teachers or school institutions offer this option as a standard approach of education without the need of showing medical prescription.
Simple pencil box is enough including 2 pencils, pen and a basic color of crayons. Children in the first grade usually do not need compass, or bigger range of pencils,...
Portfolios for notebooks are lighter from plastic than paper. Alternatively you can use for higher quality plastic protectors for the books and notebooks.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD THE BRIEFCASE DO?
We can also assess the color of the briefcase because of the traffic. Signaling colors such as red, bright yellow or orange will be more safe for children who run across the streets, than dark blue, black or grey. Signaling elements should be well visible from all sides. On the back, on the sides and in front on the shoulder straps.
WHAT CAN INCORRECTLY BAG CHOSEN BACKPACK AFFECT?
A large percentage of children have problems with body posture, headaches and joint pains. It is a combination of mental and physical stress. The big static stress during teaching with a lack of physical compensation leads to overloading of the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, bones).
If a child still carries a heavy briefcase from school or carries it between classrooms, dining hall and after-school activity, it leads to overload in the neck muscles and trunk muscles, which can lead to a defective or scoliotic posture and scoliosis of the spine, migraines and bigger tiredness of the pupil.
HOW IS IT WITH SITTING IN SCHOOL? DO CHILDREN SIT CORRECTLY?
Somewhere, the pupils have the possibility of height adjustable desks. Children have with the height-adjustable desk a chance to sit correctly. However, one hour is too long for sitting, the chair is hard and the so-called static pressure tires the muscles down, so even in an ideally set desk, the child is slouching. It would be great if children could sit on a gym ball, occasionally jump and stretch their muscles along the spine. But I cannot imagine the gym balls at school because of the mischievous boys. :-) A good compromise would be the air-filled pads on which the child sits while having the pelvis and spine on a slightly unstable surface. At home for school preparation, I would let the children sit on the gym ball.
WHAT SHOULD THE SCHOOL DO FOR A HEALTHY DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHILD’S BACK?
In schools at the first grade the PE is taught by a teacher who has never done any medical physical exercise. It is not taught on the pedagogic faculties. If the teacher is in a retirement age, she has experienced a different stereotype of education and she will not change that. The kids on the PE classes then run around the gym, playing dodgeball (slouching) and boys play football. On the other hand, I am glad when even this approach takes the children out of the benches and lets them stretch. I can see unhappiness in cases where the child has scoliosis and the orthopedist forbids the child to participate in PE classes at school. Let's realize that the child that has scoliosis has a higher elasticity of ligaments, sitting all day in a chair or bench instead of playing with others on the playground, and the insufficient muscle strength will not hold the spine straightened against the gravity. The doctor then diagnoses the child with scoliosis. If this child sits in a chair and then has to sit at gym on the bench, watching the others run and play, it makes it even more criminal. Parents usually believe doctors, so they ask the teacher to pardon their child from any activity. Fortunately, there are PE teachers who are "adamant" and want to activity from all children. Schools are also being more and more equipped with a climbing wall, which actually supports the so-called crossed motion pattern (which is what we were taught as babies to crawl on all fours, we switched crosswise arm - leg, while we had a straight spine). The same principle of the crossed motion pattern allows us to climb on a wall.
WHAT CAN I DO AS A PARENT FOR THE CHILD? (EXERCISING, WHICH EXERCISES?)
Mothers who still have a small baby, should stimulate the baby according to the Vojta method in a nonviolent way. One of the easiest positions is to lay the baby on the back, and you should stimulate the chest zone in between the ribs with one hand, and with the second hand stimulate the occipital bone (back and lower part of the skull). You can talk with the baby, sing, and exercise at the same time. The exercise is also in how the mother holds and manipulates with the baby. If you lift up and carry the baby correctly, then you do not put pressure on the baby’s joints or spine, as it would happen when placing the baby on the pillows, so that it could see us well.
To children who already crawl, climb, walk or run, we recommend to move as much as possible. There are exercises for mothers with children in various family kindergarten centers and community centers. Children are getting through various obstacles, they solve puzzles, so they do not exercise only gross and fine motor skills, but also logic and imagination.
Preschool and school children should have at least 2 times a week a sport activity. In practice i learned to tell the parents that it doesn’t matter how the child moves, it is important that it moves generally. Because lack of physical activity has worse consequences than inappropriate types of sports. If i should be consistent, then i would choose from sports that help to keep correct body posture (dancing, ballet, gymnastics) or those that support movement versatility, good coordination (athletics). I can’t definitely recommend some sports such as judo, box or even some type of modern dances. The body posture is slouched, it is basically similar to the position in which the child stays whole day behind desk at school.
If you want to choose a correct physical activity, observe your children in the lower part of their body and see which types of movement the child does most often. Then use common sense and determine whether the child will keep more likely straight posture or whether one side will be more active than the other (as it is for example by tennis).
HOW MANY CHILDREN HAVE IN AVERAGE PROBLEMS WITH BACK?
In practice we meet with children who have scoliotic body posture or scoliosis (changed shape of the vertebra). It seems like children who have wrong body posture are only those that visit physiotherapists and orthopedists. When i walk around the school of my daughter, i don’t see there any child with a correct body posture. As a physioclinic we also work together with clubs, which let their children to be diagnosed by us. Unfortunately even among the physically active children are not many of those who could stand on the other side of the gym and say that they have a nice straight back with perfect muscle coordination.
However there is a rule that is the child does any physical activity, instead of pottery, music, etc… then their musculoskeletal system is in better “condition” then by child who sits 7 hours at school, then 2 hours at home doing homeworks, and in the evening in front of tv, computer or a book.
Author: FYZIOklinika physiotherapy Ltd., Prague, Czech Republic
Source: Clinical experience from private practice in the physiotherapeutic field, FYZIOklinika