Dr. Alanna Levine: It's back-to-school time, and if your children are anything like mine, September means buying a brand-new backpack! Here are a few things to keep in mind when balancing style with function:
1) Many children carry a heavier load than they should. A general rule: The weight of the (book-filled) bag should be no more than 20 percent of the child's body weight.
2) Look for a bag with wide, padded shoulder straps that won't dig in to your child's shoulders and restrict circulation.
3) If your child has heavy books, consider buying a rolling bag -- but check with the school first to make sure it's allowed. (Some schools are concerned about hallway traffic with rolling bags.)
4) Teach your children good body mechanics. They should avoid reaching for and hoisting the bag from far away, and they should bend at the knees when lifting it. Also, backpacks should be worn on BOTH shoulders -- not the coolest look, but definitely the healthiest!
5) If your child suffers from back pain, consider asking the school for a second set of books to keep at home. Sometimes a note from the pediatrician will help in this circumstance.
6) Encourage your child to make frequent stops at his or her locker to avoid carrying around too many books at one time.
7) A few words about safety: I don't recommend putting a child's name on the outside of the backpack, because it makes it easier for a stranger to call your child by name. It's better to put your child's name and your contact information inside the bag.
Have a great back-to-school season!