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Choosing a school bag for your child

Choose a school bag for your child that is right for their size.

The width of the bag should be suitable for the size of the child. A child should not use an adult's bag. The bag should sit at waist level or just slightly above the waist.

Which school bag to choose

You should choose one of the following school bags for your child:

  • a ‘cross-body’ bag with a wide padded adjustable strap
  • a rucksack type bag with 2 wide padded adjustable straps and ideally a waist belt to take some of the load
Image of the back of a school bag. It has 2 wide padded adjustable straps.
This is an example of a suitable school bag. It has 2 wide padded adjustable straps.
Image of the bag of a school bag. It has thin narrow straps.
This school bag is not suitable - the straps are too narrow

Safely using a school bag

When packing the bag, heavier items should be placed closer to your child's back, lighter items should sit further from the body.

Your child should not carry their school bag:

  • on one shoulder
  • in their hand

Your child should:

  • put the school bag on the ground when they can
  • bend their knees and squat down to pick up their bag if it's heavy, lifting the bag close to their body
  • use a locker if they have one and try to only carry books needed for the morning or afternoon classes
  • try to get everything needed in one bag rather than carrying several bags
  • use a bicycle bag rack or pannier bag to carry the school bag if they cycle to school
  • stand up straight when they have their bag on their back and stand with weight evenly on both legs
  • not slouch while wearing the school bag

Check the weight of your child’s bag

Around 30% of school-age children have back pain or neck pain. Carrying a heavy schoolbag for long periods on immature spines could put your child at increased risk of back problems in adulthood.

Your child should not carry more than 10% of their body weight. This is the same as around three medium-sized books and a lunchbox.

Signs your child's bag is too heavy

Warning signs that your child's bag is too heavy include:

  • a change in their posture when wearing the bag
  • struggling when putting on or removing the bag
  • pain when wearing the bag
  • tingling or numbness in arms or red marks on the shoulders

See your GP or a physiotherapist if your child complains of back pain.

Read about choosing shoes for your child

Page last reviewed: 5 November 2021
Next review due: 5 November 2024

Slaintecare logo
This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.