If you are in the US or Canada you might be getting ready to send the kids back to school. I thought it was the perfect time to talk about something I love... backpacks!
From a Montessori perspective, there are a few things to consider when selecting a new backpack:
- Size! Does the bag fit the child? Especially with a toddler or preschooler ensure the backpack is not too big, this may require some research and shopping around, but it is important. Search for 'mini' backpacks and compare dimensions to get the size right.
- Adjustable. Does the backpack have adequate adjustable straps? The child should be able to wear the backpack well fitted and snug against their back. Ensure the straps can be shortened enough for a smaller or younger child. Ensure the straps are adjusted before school starts, it only takes a minute.
- Comfort. Is the backpack comfortable to wear? The fit of the backpack will play a role in this but consider strap width, strap positioning, and padding.
- Independence. Can the child put the backpack on, take it off and open/close it independently? Many backpacks have zippers, buckles, clasps or clips that can be difficult. Practice if necessary to ensure your child has mastered it before school starts. Independence is also important in allowing your child to pack their own backpack, ensure they have everything they need and be age appropriate but try to guide your child rather than do it for them.
- Weight. Children don't need a big bulky, heavy bag. Look for a lightweight bag that won't weigh your child down.
- Pockets and storage. Ensure the backpack has adequate storage for your child's needs.
- Good aesthetics. I love a good looking backpack! I suggest if going to a Montessori school to stay away from character backpacks. Many schools clearly ban materials with characters on them and they are best left at home. It's also helpful if your child has ownership over their backpack, perhaps with some guidance such as a selection from a small range, the child can pick out their own backpack or select the colours.
It's important to set a high standard early on. If the child learns good posture and cares for their back, this will continue with them for life.
This is an interesting article written by a Chiropractor for Montessori Australia Is Your Child's Back Pack Weighing them Down? A key message for older children (my eldest son often carries heavy books and a laptop in his backpack) is not to overload the child with them carrying too much weight.
From their Montessori toddler classes both of my children used the Fjällräven Kånken Mini backpack. It is lightweight and a good size for little ones. Otis at five still uses the Kånken mini, and Caspar at eight uses the larger Kånken. The Re-Kånken has recently launched which comes in the same mini size but is made from recycled plastic bottles and is recyclable itself!! We have a little toddler friend who wears (and looks adorable) in the Skip Hop Mini, it fits him perfectly (nice and snug), and it's large enough to hold a water bottle, snacks, a hat and perhaps a small change of clothes.
It's also a good idea to consider if you might use the backpack for travelling or outdoor adventures. Waterproofing may be important.
If you are heading back to school (parents and teachers!) I wish you lots of luck and best wishes for the new school year.