Choosing a school backpack/briefcase with regards to a healthy development of children’s back


Do you have a preschooler at home and you think about buying a briefcase which should fulfill all the requirements on the healthy development of your child’s back? Then this article is exactly for you.

Do you know that students in the first grade wear a backpack, which weighs about 20 - 25% of their physical weight? Are you asking yourself how did I come to these numbers? You won’t find this number anywhere. No primary school, producer of school books or backpacks show these numbers, even though within their marketing they are dealing with the question of how much does a backpack weigh…

I came to this cipher with simple math, I weighed the children in first grade till third grade, and then I compared their weight with the weight of the school books, notebooks, snacks, pencil box which students have to carry to the school daily.

If we would want to compare a schoolchild to an adult weighing around 70 kg, the adult would have to carry daily a burden of average weight 14 -17,5 kg. You have to acknowledge that this comparison is precise and at the same time alarming, if you take in mind that the child is in the time of growth a fragile personality, and their bones which are not sufficiently ossified (calcified) are soft and can be easily deformed.


The question is why we have so many school children suffering with wrong body posture and scoliosis of the spine? In all honesty, surely the weight of the briefcase/backpack won’t be the only reason, but also the option of being able to naturally move during the day, and any activity which the children can do and their lifestyle. However the weight of the backpack/briefcase definitely plays a significant role in the motor skill development of the child.


Briefcase or backpack, with which the child goes every day to school should be as light as possible. Some producers show the weight of the backpack on the etiquette, that way you can easily learn the weight of the backpack before you buy it. Optimally the backpack should weigh around 800 - 1200g. However the overall weight should not affect the constructional parameters!

Sufficient ergonomic cushioning on the back, and cushioning on the shoulder straps will help to spread the weight of the backpack evenly across the back and shoulders. The backpack or briefcase has to fulfill also safety norms given by the laws such as having reflective surface of minimal size 2 x 5 cm.

If you put the backpack/briefcase on the back of the child, the upper edge of the backpack should be in the level of the shoulders, so the bag shouldn’t be hanging on the child. Some backpack producers enable the possibility to adjust this height. If the backpack is not in a correct height, the body will be dragged backwards and the lumbar spine will be bending. The child elevates the weight of the backpack, by pushing the shoulders and head forward, that result in slouching.


If you want to affect the weight of the backpack also during the daily use, minimize the content of the backpack to the lowest possible weight.

  • Try to talk to the teacher to get two same textbooks - one that would be used at home, and the second one which would be used at school. Some smart / enlightened teachers or school institutions offer this option as a standard approach for education, without the need of having a receipt from the doctor.
  • Simple pencil box without any additional floors is ideal along with two pencils, pen and crayons of basic colors. Children in first grade usually do not need compass or bigger range of crayons…
  • Folders made out of plastic are lighter than those made out of paper. Alternatively you can use firmer plastic covers for the notebooks.

High percentage of children in school age have bigger problems with body posture, headaches or joint pain. It is a combination of psychological and physical burdening. Bigger static burden learning with insufficient physical compensation leads to overloading of the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, bones).

If the child carries very heavy backpack to the school or carries the heavy bag between the classrooms, cafeteria and after school activities, it leads only to bigger overloading of the nape muscles and abdominal muscles, which can lead to wrong or scoliotic body posture and scoliosis of the spine, migraines and bigger tiredness of the child.

Author: Mgr. Iva Bílková, FYZIOklinika fyzioterapie Ltd, Prague, Czech Republic

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