Monday, January 6, 2014

A good school bag for a healthier and happier child

2nd day of the new school year and DinoBoy came back with 2 letters from the school, in one of the letters the school mentioned about school bags.

I guess this is a major concern to parents, especially for those who's kids just started Primary 1 this year.  Therefore I decided to do a little analysis and write up a post on this so that some of you have a clear idea (I hope) on this.

I asked DinoBoy to stand on our bathroom scale and he weighs 21.6kg; so 10% of his body weight is 2.16kg and 15% is 3.24kg.  Then I went ahead to weigh the items he carries daily to school on my kitchen scale and gathered the figures;

* School bag - 800g
* Yellow netted file to keep letters/worksheets  - 100g
* Student handbook - 250g
* Pencil &color pencil case - 200g
* Exercise book - 100g
* Maths textbook - 475g
* Chinese textbook - 275g
* Student Care tee in drawstring nylon bag - 175g
* Geronimo story book - 200g
Total weight on his shoulders is 2.575kg 

Now if you add the water bottle (Filled full with water) of 620g slinged around his shoulder, the total weight on his shoulders becomes 3.195kg, almost close to 15% max weight.  That's a lot of weight for an eight year old!  Sometimes I find that his bag is heavy for me too! 

(Do note that these are the standard things he has to carry daily so if he needs to bring extra things like Social Studies book, Moral Education book, extra story book then the weight will be more)

DinoBoy's school provides lockers for the students to keep some of their textbooks, workbooks and exercise books in the classroom so they have lesser things to carry to & fro school.  I am sure most if not all of the school will have lockers for the students so do check with your child's school.  

Our Bag
With a potential heavy load on my small built boy, I was determined to get a good school bag for him even before he started primary 1 last year.  I have seen kids struggled with a heavy bag, walking with hunched back and a strained look on their face.  This will affect their body posture which will cause vertebral subluxation in future leading to frequent neckaches or headaches.  I know this because I was a "victim" and I have written about it, My Twisted Spine in 2012.

Back then, I studied the bags in the market and zeroed in to Ergoworks bags, they may not have the lightest or the cheapest bag in town but it has good back support system that fits the contour of the spine.  Ergoworks has many backpack designs & models to suit every child, DinoBoy carries an Impact Backpack IPEG-086 as it fits him nicely due to his body size.  The padding on the back not only provides firm support it also provides ventilation so his back will not feel too warm due to body heat or perspiration.  I also like the padded shoulder straps which provides comfortable padding on the shoulder and underarm.  The chest clip ensure that the bag is snug-tight against his body preventing him from being pulled backward by the heavy books.

However, it is not enough to have a good school bag, you must also know how to pack them and educate your child about it too.  It is best to pack most of the heavier items such as textbooks to the back of the bag so that they are closer to your child's body and the weight is on the shoulder instead of pulling the body backward.  Impact's bag has a slot inside for this purpose which I like a lot as I can simply instruct DinoBoy to put all his books in that slot instead of stuffing them into the bag "any-o-how", thus ensuring that he will always have most of the weight closer to his body.

Impact backpacks bags have a moulded frame that ensures it will stand on its own when you put it on the floor.  This also means that the weight will not pull DinoBoy backward which usually happens when you have a soft fabric or nylon bags that does not hold a shape on its own.

We Disagree & Discourage
Many parents think that it's ok to buy "ill fitting" bag now since their child will grow up eventually to fit the bag (Ill fitting bags means bags that are bigger then the child's frame).  I disagree to this as it may take months or even year(s) for a child to grow into bigger body frame, take DinoBoy for example, though he has grown taller he is still so small built after a year!  To carry a misfit bag for such long period of time will cause some strain on their back and definitely will affect their walking and standing postures.

You buy bags that are suitable for your child, not the other way around just to save some dollars and hoping that your child will eventually be able to carry the bag comfortably.

I also discourage friends from buying school bags with wheels for their child as I feel that there will be tendency of hurting the shoulder muscles while pulling a heavy load behind them.  I have seen students walking and pulling that kind of bag behind them and the bag over turned thus twisting their writs.  I won't want such accidents to happen to my child.

Our Tips
Here are the few things to look out for when choosing a good school bag.

1. The shoulder straps should be padded for comfort and rest nicely on your child's shoulders, not slanted or dropping on one side.  The strap should be wide enough to ensure that the weight of the bag is distributed more evenly.

2. The school bag should sit comfortably with its bottom just at hip level and the top of the bag should be a little above the shoulders.  This will ensure that the mass weight is centred at waist height.  The bag should also be padded where it touches the back.

3. Look for school bags with chest clip and/or waist belt so that it keep the bag close to the body and in place when moving around.

4.  Its best to get a bag with moulded frame so even if the books falls forward the bag still holds it shape and weight is still close to the child's body instead of pulling the child backward.

Our Alternative Suggestion
Alternatively you can distribute the books between the school bag and another hand carry bag.  I have done that and its very cumbersome for DinoBoy.  He is not tall so if he hold the bag at the handle he will be dragging it on the floor and if he sling it on the crook of his elbow, it will be too tiring for him to carry it for long period of time.

The shape of DinoBoy's Impact bag always gives others an impression that he is carrying an over load bag, contrary to that, the weight is ok for him. 

Our Conclusion
So, do what you must to ensure that you do not over load your child's school bag and put a strain on his delicate back.  In general, DinoBoy's school bag weight is within the preferred weight as advised by Singapore's Health Promotion Board.  To lessen DinoBoy's load, I have decided to let him bring half filled water bottle to school as he can refill it any time from the water cooler found in the school compound.

It's never too early to start a good habit and take care of our child's body.  I hope you find this post useful to you, if you have any suggestions please feel free to drop me a note in the comment section below.

Disclaimer : We are not compensated in any way by Ergoworks for this post.  All opinions and views are 100% based on our personal experience in using the Impact Backpack with the hope of sharing the positive information with our readers.


  1. Ahhhh... thank you for sharing! And I can't wait for you to share DinoBoy's P2 learning journey!

    1. You just made me fall off the chair! Hahahaha~ Sharing P2 learning journey? I hope I have lesser things to rant :D

      Thank you for your positive comment Cherie, it makes me feel great to know that all my sharing about his school work did really help some parents.

  2. Thank you for sharing! I am worried as my gal quite a small built.

    1. Hi Fiona, look around for a good school bag that suits her body size, I am sure there are some out there. Otherwise split the loads into school bags and hand carry bags.

    2. Thanks! Will mark down this for nx year when missy due for Pri1!

  3. haha that's really cute. can also carry those roller bags (like a suitcase), i loved those when i was younger!