When the beginning of a new school year rolls around, finding the right backpack for your child is always on the checklist as parents load up their carts with back to school items.

It is safe to say that the backpack is the most utilized item for school, the carrying container filled with supplies that travel to and from school each and everyday.  The backpack should top the list with questions on how you, as the parent can get the best bang for your buck. However, as an osteopathic manual practitioner, I see a lot of children with backpacks that are too large, too long or too heavy for the size of a child’s body.  From an osteopath perspective, a child’s backpack should be comfortable to carry and reduce any unnecessary strain on your child’s body.

Here is a guide to finding the right backpack for your child and a few tips to be aware of:


Select a backpack made of a lighter material designed for younger bodies versus one made with heavier material designed for adults.


The ability to adjust the shoulder straps allows for the weight of the contents in the backpack to be distributed appropriately, reducing strain placed on the shoulders and neck.  This will also reduce need for the head to move forward (out of optimal alignment) and shoulders to round anteriorly/forward.


Thin straps can dig into the shoulders, ouch. Select a backpack that has thicker and padded shoulder straps.


Selecting a backpack with a chest and/or waist strap will help distribute the external load more evenly across the back than it being poorly distributed and cause the musculoskeletal system to improperly absorb the load. The chest and/or waist strap also helps keep the backpack more snug to the body.  Bonus points if you find a backpack with both the chest and waist strap.  Gold star purchase power!

Encourage your child to carry their backpack on both shoulders as opposed to one as that can also cause the body to alter its optimal alignment to adjust to the unilateral (one sided) load.

Multiple compartments on the backpack help distribute the weight of its contents more evenly to the body.  This too, helps keep the backpack closer and more snug to the body and reduces the need to bend forward at the waist which can place stress on various joints on the body to accommodate the load.

Encourage your child to place heavier items at the bottom of the bag and to utilize the pockets, such as the water bottle pockets.

The length of the backpack should be no longer than the length of the child’s torso.  An approximation of how to determine the right backpack size is the top should start at the top of the shoulder blade and the bottom shouldn’t hang below the top of the buttocks.
Purchasing a backpack that fits properly to your child’s torso length that doesn’t sag or pull your child back is another gold star moment for you.

The padded cushion on the back of the backpack helps reduce the items in the backpack poking into your child’s back.

Multiple studies suggest the weight of the backpack should not weigh more than 10% of your child’s body weight when full. It’s easy once winter comes to add shoes, lunch bags, swim gear plus more to your child’s back, but remember that treacherous conditions also contribute to shifts in posture and mobility even for children, and a backpack that is too heavy doesn’t help.

Below are a few of our backpack recommendations.

Youth Sprout Backpack

Youth Sprout Backpack – $39.99 (2-4 years) – Comes in 7 different colours and patterns. Perfect for the little munchkins heading out for the day with an adjustable velcro sternum and shoulder straps. Extra zippered pockets, reflective material and a spot for a name label inside. Comes with a lifetime warranty.


Obersee Kid’s All-in-One Pre-School Backpacks with Integrated Cooler   – $39.49 (3+ years) – Comes in 20 different styles and colours. This bag has a cool feature of an insulated lunch cooler as the front pocket. It has padded shoulder straps and padded lower back section. Multiple interior pockets with a pouch on the side and adjustable chest strap.

Youth Recon Squash

Youth Recon Squash – $59.99 (6-10 years) – Comes in 4 different colours and a lifetime guarantee. Side mesh pockets ideal for water bottles and other items. Extra zippered pockets, reflective material, a sternum strap with a name label pocket inside.

L.L. Bean Deluxe Book Pack

L.L. Bean Deluxe Book Pack – $47-$79 (10+ years) – Comes in 7 different patterns. Weatherproof material with a reinforced bottom. Padded shoulder straps, back and lumbar support. Water bottle pockets and compartments to keep things tidy.

Mackenzie backpacks

Mackenzie Blue Glow-in-the-Dark Shark Backpacks $52-$105 (mini 2-4 years / small 3-5 years / large 5+ years) – There are many options available with respect to sizes and designs. Some select designs have the option to choose a rolling bag. Water resistant material with padded shoulder adjustable straps and padded back. Glow in the dark effect. Pockets ideal for water bottles and other items. The option to add a personalized touch is an added bonus to this cool bag.

See the image below for proper alignment to best support your back. Image ID 80349986 © Vitalii Kit | Dreamstime.com