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Back to School: Backpacks, Shoes and Breakfast

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I can’t believe it, and I’d bet parents of school-aged children really can’t believe that it’s time to go back to school!

Here are a few things to think about as you’re shopping for stocking up for the school year:

Backpacks (you had to know that was coming!): Overstuffing backpacks can cause a great deal of stress on your child’s growing spine. It can cause improper alignment of the spine, and strain the muscle and soft tissue. Improper backpack habits can also create immense back pain, increased natural spinal archs, and fatigue. More than a third of American students carry over 30 percent of their body weight, and 60 percent of students experience lower back pain. A maximum weight for your child’s loaded backpack should not exceed 15 percent of their body weight. For example, an 80-pound child should wear a backpack weighing no more than 12 pounds, and a 130-pound child should wear a backpack weighing no more than 19.5 pounds.

Size and design of your child’s backpack matter. Proper size and wide, well-cushioned shoulder straps with a lumbar support or padding will drastically change the distribution of weight on their body. This means your child has a better chance of avoiding headaches and neck and back pain. Properly wearing and using a backpack matters as much as having a quality design. Place the heaviest items closest to the back so they are placed over your child’s strongest mid-back muscles. Don’t let it hang lower than four inches past their waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight at the shoulders, forcing your child to lean forward to compensate for all the weight. Have your child wear both straps at all times, and make sure straps are adjusted correctly. Forcing any extra weight to hang from one side can cause spine curvature and can lead to extended back pain. Have your child bend at the knees to pick up or set down their backpacks to evenly distribute weight and to decrease stress on their joints.

Shoes: You’ve read many of my blogs that address wearing the proper footwear. It’s no different for kids’ shoes. I’m not sure if flip flops are sandals are allowed in schools, but if not, that’s a good thing! Just like adults, and maybe even more so, kids need sturdy, supportive shoes. Their shoes should be fitted to their feet so their arches are supported and so the shoes do not flop up and down as the kids walk.

Breakfast: You’ve probably heard it say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. All meals are important, but evidence suggests eating breakfast really does help kids learn. After fasting all night, a developing body (and brain) needs a fresh supply of glucose — or blood sugar. That’s the brain’s basic fuel. Not only is it important for them to eat breakfast, they also should eat the right kind of breakfast. Sugary cereals get into your body quickly and cause a peak in blood-sugar levels, but the levels then fall dramatically after two hours or so. Think about making a breakfast casserole the night before for your kids to eat for breakfast over a couple of days. You can use eggs, various vegetables and cheese. This makes a good protein-rich breakfast for kids. Plain yogurt with fresh fruit is also a good choice.
Good luck to you and your kids for a safe and productive school year!

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