Child with backpack (Allen Donikowski | Getty Images)

There’s no getting around the fact that kids today have some heavy loads to lug to and from school. But there are ways to minimize the damage to their bodies that can result. Often the problem isn’t just the amount of weight, but how it’s carried.

“Backpacks are meant to be worn correctly in order to effectively distribute the weight of their contents over the strongest parts of the body,” says Natasha Burgert, MD, a pediatrician in Kansas City, MO.

That means making sure the pack fits your child correctly, that it has two, wide padded straps worn snugly over the shoulders and that the waist belt (if it has one) is cinched low on the hips to help carry the load. Burgert also recommends loading the pack so that the heaviest items sit toward the center.

“As a general rule of thumb, the weight of a child’s backpack should be no more than 20 percent of their body weight,” warns Burgert, and it may only take a few big textbooks to reach that level. Another option, if your children’s school allows it, is to switch to a roller bag.

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