YOU KNOW THAT HEAVY BACKPACKS ARE A PROBLEM…
But what can you do about it?
Erica Inzina, a teacher of ten years, explains that in her experience, a lot of the weight of a student's backpack could come from unnecessary items. Here are her practical tips for reducing backpack weight.
TAKE OUT EXTRA LIBRARY BOOKS
In my experience, students often hoard library books that they aren't actually reading, especially when they get into older grades and the popular books are hard to come by. So it's a good idea to check this periodically and have your child remove books they aren't reading at that moment. As your child gets older, the books get a lot bigger and heavier, so having more than one can add a lot of unnecessary weight.
TAKE OUT “HOME” TEXT BOOKS
If your child is carrying a textbook in his or her backpack, there's a good chance it doesn't really need to be in there. Many schools actually have two sets of textbooks — one for the classroom and one for each student to take home. Every year when I distribute textbooks, I tell my students that I do not want to see their “home” textbook in their backpack until the last day of school when it is supposed to be returned. The purpose of the home textbook is for students to have access to the material when they are not at school, which means there should be no need for toting it back and forth to school every day. Many schools are also adopting digital textbooks which can give students access to the text online. If your child is toting around a textbook every day, it's worth asking if it is necessary, if there is an online alternative, or if there is a better place for it besides the backpack at all times.
TAKE OUT OLD PAPERS AND NOTES
Especially as students get older, the papers and notes can really start to accumulate and add a great deal of extra weight. It's a good practice to encourage your student to periodically go through these papers and notes. They may be hesitant to throw anything away in case they need it again. I always encourage my students to keep a folder for our class at home. There they can store the notes we are not currently using so that the only notes in their backpack are the notes for the unit we are currently on. Besides eliminating a lot of weight, this practice can help students stay better organized at school. Plus, once those notes start to pile up like that, they become crumbled and ripped making them hardly useful anymore anyway.
LIMIT UNNECESSARY ACCESSORIES
Kids love to have all the things — pens, fancy erasers, squishies, Pokemon cards, fidget spinners, etc. These items are usually unnecessary, but I think it's okay for a child to express their personality in these small ways. However, I have seen backpacks so full of these extra accessories that there is actually little room for items that should actually be in there. But there can be a reasonable middle ground. Instead of an entire dop kit full of colorful pens (yes, I have had many students come with a bag of that size), perhaps your student could limit it to the favorite/best colors in a smaller bag. Or instead of bringing all the squishies, perhaps just one would be sufficient and the student could switch out each week.
ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD TO USE A LOCKER OR CUBBY
In our school, we do not have lockers because of limited hall space. However, every student has a dedicated cubby that is meant to take the place of the locker. This is a great place to store all those extra things like library books, old notes, extra pens you don't actually use, or toys for recess. It's even better if a student has time to visit his or her locker or cubby throughout the day. This could really cut down on backpack weight between classes.
The bottom line is this…We know heavy backpacks can cause all sorts of problems, but chances are, there is a lot of unnecessary weight in your child's backpack. It is worth taking the time periodically to go through the backpack to remove some of this weight.