A Note From The Teacher

by Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed.

Taming the Backpack Beast

teacher school kidsSchool backpacks have become one of the most prized school supplies of children, but one of the most despised accessories by many parents.

 

 

Watching your child come home from school each and every day loaded down with many pounds of books, supplies, papers, and assorted school stuff makes every mom and dad cringe.

Not only is carrying a heavy bag not good for your child’s physical health, but having a ready receptacle for everything from snacks to trash is just too tempting for most kids. Without regular maintenance, bags quickly become filled with food, papers, books, homework, notices, pencils, pens, crayons, markers, and even some unrecognizable goodies.

While many of these things are necessary for school, when allowed to get out of control this can lead to excessively heavy backpacks, disorganization, lost materials, and even bug infestations (they love leftover snack foods!) So how do you tame the backpack beast? Here are a few tips to help your family tame the backpack beast:

1. Have a backpack routine every day

By setting up a regular routine that your child follows when they arrive home from school, you can help to make sure that their backpack gets attention regularly. Set up a place for papers, a place for homework, and a place for notices, so that you are quickly able to see what’s new that day. Nothing in any pile? That just means you have to take a few extra minutes to look through the backpack yourself to be sure there’s nothing in there waiting for your attention.

2. Give kids responsibility

Even the youngest children can be given some responsibility for loading and unloading their own backpacks. Younger children will require hands-on adult supervision, but once children are 9 or 10 years old, they should start being largely responsible for their own packs. That does not mean that a spot-check from mom and dad isn’t essential every few days- it most definitely is! But primary responsibility should be on the kids. They know what they need, probably more than you do!

3. Make the pack fit the child

Many companies put out different types and sizes of backpacks to fit the needs of lots of different students. When purchasing a backpack, don’t buy the largest one on the rack. Rather, think about what your child will need to carry on a daily basis and how much room they will need, then purchase accordingly. Buying a pack that is too big will just give plenty of room to fill with junk!

4. Have more than one pack for activities
Too often, families try to save money by purchasing one large backpack that’s used for all activities, from basketball to youth group to school. While saving money is great, this is just a recipe for disaster. By changing around supplies all of the time for different activities, your child is more likely to lose or forget an important item. Instead, have one backpack for school and one for activities. It’s a better option to share one bag for multiple sports than it is to have one bag for sports, academics, and afterschool activities. Most likely, the backpack will also be lighter for each activity, too!

5. Wash backpacks at each vacation

Backpacks are slung into some of the dirtiest, smelliest, and grungiest places imaginable on buses, in public places, restrooms, outside, all over! They can become a storage facility for germs. To help combat germs as well as give you a reason to clean everything out of the inside, wash backpacks at least each vacation. This will give the bags an opportunity to dry out without requiring use in the dryer. Some packs can be machine-washed, while others need to be hand or spot cleaned, but it’s always worth it to be sure a clean bag is ready to go for your child.

Backpacks can be one of the most frustrating school items that parents would love to live without! But every day, kids need them to get their important papers and work to and from school. Don’t despair- these are just a few ways your family can help keep the Backpack Beast at bay in your home! Have more ideas? Share them with us via email! We’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Jennifer Cummings

Ms. Cummings, author, and editor of the Education and School Section, she has a B.A.in psychology and an M.Ed. in special education from Framingham State College in Massachusetts. She was an elementary teacher in Massachusetts serving both regular education and special education students. She has taught grades 1,4, and 5.

"I believe that families' involvement in their child's education is one of the key ingredients to creating a successful school experience for children. Keeping parents informed about school-related issues helps parents and teachers work together for the best possible outcomes for their children. Learning together makes learning fun - for everyone!" - Jennifer Cummings.
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