Back to School


handwashing is your superpower

Handwashing helps prevent you and your kids from getting sick and making other people sick. Encourage your kids to wash their hands before eating or touching their mouth, eyes, nose, cuts or scrapes. They should also wash their hands after going to the bathroom, playing with pets or other animals, touching pet food or treats, being on playground equipment, being close to a person who is sick, touching a dirty diaper and touching trash.

A kid’s guide to clean hands

  1. Get wet and soapy. Wet your hands in clean, running water. Put soap on your hands and make suds.
  2. Rub. Rub your soapy hands together long enough to sing the tune of “Happy Birthday” in your head twice. Clean your palms, the back of your hands, and between your fingers. Don’t forget to clean under your nails.
  3. Rinse. Hold your hands under clean, running water. Rub them to rinse them fully.
  4. Shake and dry. Shake your hands a few times, then dry them with a clean towel or hand dryer.

When to reach for hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is a good backup when you can’t get to soap and water. Use an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Tell your child to put a quarter-sized blob of hand sanitizer into a palm and rub their hands–front and back and between fingers until they’re dry.

Watch That Backpack Load

child and mom with backpack

Most children rely on backpacks to carry books and supplies to and from school and activities. But a backpack that’s too heavy or doesn’t fit right can cause harm.

Children can hurt themselves by using poor posture to carry a heavy bag. They may arch their back, bend forward, twist, or lean to one side. These positions can change the spine’s alignment to where discs can’t absorb shock as they should. It can injure muscles and joints in the back, neck, and shoulders. It can cause problems with posture. In rare cases, it may cause nerve damage. Help prevent these potential issues by helping your children choose the right backpack and wear it safely.

Choosing the right backpack

Pick backpacks for your children that have the following traits:

  • Lightweight, but strong
  • Two wide, padded shoulder straps (not just 1 strap)
  • A padded back to protect against sharp objects inside the bag
  • A waist and chest strap to help keep the bag stable
  • Appropriately sized (isn’t wider than your child’s torso or hanging more than four inches below the waist)

Wearing a backpack safely

Here’s what you need to know before your child heads to school:

  • Pack light. The backpack should be at a comfortable weight. Weigh it on a scale. When full, it shouldn’t be more than five to ten percent of your child’s body weight.
  • Organize the backpack well. Place the heavy items low towards the center of the backpack.
  • Only carry what’s needed. Encourage your child to make trips to their locker if possible.
  • Pick it up properly. Double-check that your child is bending using both knees (not bending over at the waist) to pick up or wear the backpack.
  • Get strappy. Slinging it over one shoulder may seem “cool,” but it can strain muscles and increase spine curvature, so be sure kids always use both shoulder straps. If the backpack has a waist strap, tell your child to use it.
  • Place the backpack evenly in the middle of the back. The backpack should sit about 2 inches above the waist. This will help prevent awkward postures.
  • Tighten and loosen the straps as needed. The straps should be snug while wearing the pack. This helps hold the pack firmly to the body. Tell your children to loosen the straps before removing the pack. This makes it easier to take off.

To see more health and lifestyle tips, visit the Health Library at

Read more back to school articles:

Helping Children Cope with Stress

Kids Need Enough Sleep to Succeed at School

A Healthy School Lunch? It’s in the Bag

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