Depending on where you are, school is either starting or starting back up again for most elementary kids. And if you’re like most moms, you’re finding out you may need to refresh the old backpack.
Because let’s be real, elementary school kids are tough on their backpacks. The best non-toxic backpacks for elementary school kids need to be durable and keep our kids’ school supplies all together, and we’d really like to patronize companies that put people and the earth first.
So whether it’s time for a brand new one or time to freshen up because the first half of the school year has already taken its toll, we’ve found the best non-toxic backpacks for elementary school kids. What’s your favorite?
First Things First: Why A Backpack?
While the trend today may be a cute shoulder or messenger bag for our little elementary students, the reality is that a backpack is the better option (for most of us, even). Why? Because backpacks distribute the weight of whatever is inside more evenly across your body. And for elementary students, who are typically between the ages of 4-11, this is a pivotal time for bone and muscular growth. Using a backpack instead of a messenger back or shoulder bag in elementary school is wise because your little one’s strongest muscles in their body will help them. What are those, you ask? Why, they’re the back and abdominal muscles (also critical for everything from reading to writing to coordination), and a backpack helps strengthen and protect them at the same time.
Related: Top 10 Best Backpack Diaper Bags
And think about your messenger or shoulder bag. How often are you stuffing it way more than you should? We’re sad that so many elementary school kids have backpacks full of things that weigh more than they do, but it’s a myth that carrying a shoulder or messenger bag will prevent your elementary schooler from having too heavy a load. Instead, they most likely will have the same load, but will do some damage to their bodies carrying it in shoulder or messenger bags.
Best Backpacks For Elementary School Kids: Fit Is Everything
At the end of a long day you’ve been toting a big bag around, how good does it feel to drop it when you get home? Your elementary school kids feel the same about their backpacks, and they feel the stress and strain in their shoulders, necks and backs. This can not only cause them immediate pain, but it can trigger lower back pain that can end up plaguing them as adults. While your kindergartener may want a backpack just like big brother, it’s crucial you find a backpack that’s the right size. It’s also really important to look for straps that can carry appropriate weight loads and in a way that protects your child.
If you don’t, and your child totes a heavy, poorly-fitting backpack around on a regular basis, you may be inadvertently allowing the backpack to distort the curves in your children’s middle and lower back. That can bring them irritation and muscle strain, and they’ll feel that in their rib cages and spin joints. When their backpack is too heavy and not well-fitting, it can affect their posture, which in turn can and does affect various muscle functions.
And please, please stress this to your children: there are two straps on backpacks for a reason. Again, little eyes like to follow the paths of bigger sisters and brothers, and may feel super cool carrying their backpacks on one shoulder. This is not good for their spine, though, as uneven weight can cause stress and impair their growth and development. It may ‘look cool,’ but feeling bad is not worth it.
Making Sure The Best Backpacks For Elementary School Kids Wear Well
As we said, ensuring the appropriate weight for your elementary schooler’s backpack is important and in this day and age, may take some purposed intention. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, backpacks shouldn’t exceed 10-20% of your child’s total body weight. You’d think this would be easy, but as we see more kids with loads of homework at earlier and earlier ages, it’s not always. You’ll need to work with your child’s teacher and school to figure out how to reduce the weight of your elementary schooler’s backpack because their back and body health is too important.
And, it’s important to make sure the backpack is a good size and fit for your elementary school kiddo. There’s a reason many backpacks come in junior and full-size; there’s a big difference in what your kindergartener should be able to handle than compared to your fifth-grader.
Finding the right size bag is not the only important factor when it comes to the best backpacks for elementary school kids. You have to teach them and implore them to wear it correctly. You want to tell them why it’s important they wear it well, and you also want to pay attention to the following tips from experts:
- Encourage your child to wear the waist strap if the backpack you choose has it. Not all do, and that doesn’t mean they’re not a great backpack, but if it does? Your child should utilize that extra pressure point relief. The waist strap also helps distribute the weight of the bag better, and it helps ensure better back health. They might not like the look of it, but it’s about health, not looks.
- Again, reiterate the importance of wearing both straps on both shoulders. It may be cool to wear on one shoulder, but both straps mean better development of spine, shoulder and back and also is preventative care for future back problems. Ohhh if we could only get them to understand how important to the future this is NOW!
- Pay attention to the weight. If you feel like there is too much stuff in your kid’s backpack, you are most likely correct. Talk to them about why they feel they need to have so much. If it’s them trying to cut time or not have to go back and forth to a locker, you can understand that. BUT, you need to stress looking for ways to eliminate the weight. And, if they tell you it’s because the teacher said they had to have all that stuff in their bag? It’s time to talk with the teacher and administration if need be. We have to be advocates for our children and protect their future health too.
- Don’t buy a backpack just because your child swears she won’t live unless Elsa or Anna is on her backpack. Style is important to kids, yes, and we know they deserve to have their own style standards. But health and safety have to be first. Feel free to check the Elsa backpack out, but know how to find a good fit in a backpack. It should sit high on their back and the shoulder straps should be comfortable to them. Do NOT let them loosen them and let the bag hang; that puts so much unneeded stress on them. Make sure it sits above their hips and not past their waist. Period. They may fight you but you don’t care; you’re taking care of their back!
- Make sure straps are adjustable and fitted properly. During the winter, they may need to be loosened because your kids are wearing heavier clothing. And it’s important that your child knows how to adjust the straps themselves if they are old enough because they will likely need to do so for a good fit at some point. Making sure the straps fit correctly is key’ it means that no matter how cool your kids think a hanging pack is, their backs and hops are protected.
- Tell your children to take advantage of times they can relax from wearing their backpacks. If they can set them down on the floor or in their lockers, have them do so. It gives their backs a break.
How To Find The Best Non-Toxic Backpacks For Elementary School Kids
It’s no secret that the sparkly, shiny backpacks your kids swear JoJo Siwa made herself are most likely toxic. If it’s shiny and smelly plastic, odds are it’s made of PVC and is toxic. That’s what most inexpensive backpacks are made of, and while we understand budgets, you don’t want your child to have that much exposure to phthalates day in and day out. A lot of the plastics used for backpacks also contain PCBs and believe it or not, still in this day and age, there’s lead in some of the plastics as well.
So, when you’re looking for non-toxic backpacks for elementary school kids, you want to look for bags that are made of canvas or fabrics. Some are even made of recycled cardboard or recycled polyester, which is better than the chemicals they’ll come across in plastics. And be super careful of backpacks that claim they’re PVC-free. Too often, the replacement is PEVA, which is better with toxicity, yes, but recent research suggests that it still can give off VOCs.
Investigate companies and read about their materials. Many companies who make backpacks for elementary school kids want to do good things for the earth and for families. Look for companies that openly share their materials and the processes involved in making their bags. And, though the non-toxic and eco-friendly backpacks may be a bit pricier, the longevity will make it worth the money. Not to mention, we want to put our pennies into companies that put their efforts into our families and the earth.
Look for quality. Elementary school kids are tough on their things, and backpacks are no different. Especially when you consider the purpose of the backpack is to carry stuff, it’s a given that it will be carried like it’s carrying a bag full of stuff! It needs to be able to hold up to the elements as well as the tosses and flings of every elementary schooler who’ll carry it. Good quality from sustainable sources is worth the price.
Sustainably sourced materials matter. As we work to teach our kids to take care of the earth, we can talk to them about how we can do so in choosing their backpacks. When you involve your children in why you make the choices about products that you do, namely to protect them and the earth, they may not give as much push-back about insisting on the cool PJ Masks (and full of plastic) bag as they would a backpack made with biodegradeable, renewable, non-toxic and sustainably sourced materials. Your kids can feel good about being involved in those choices.
Don’t fall for fads. The truth of the matter is that your child may be in love with JoJo or Minecraft or Mario or Pokemon now, but they may not next year. Heck, they may not next month. Again, it may be an initial hard sell–talking them into choosing function over style and non-toxic over cheaply made plastic, but if they know the value of the backpack you choose to the earth and their health, they may buy in more. As well, let them decorate and jazz them up some with fun flair and pins that they can choose easily, and keep up with current fads that way. Doing this will mean the life of the backpack will be extended, and that’s good for the earth and your pocketbook.
Get bags that give back. You can make a difference with just about every purchase you make, and buying backpacks is no different. Look for companies that not only make non-toxic and eco-friendly backpacks for elementary school kids, but ones that give back to their communities and the earth as well.
The Best Non-Toxic Backpacks For Elementary School Kids
LoneCone backpacks are proof that your kids don’t have to trade style for a great backpack that’s made sustainably and from a company that gives to their local community. These are well-sized backpacks for elementary school kids and they come in so many fun colors and patterns. Lone Cone also donates kids’ lunchboxes and backpacks to those in need in the community, and as a company, they encourage kids and families to be outdoors and make more memories together!
These backpacks (and their companion lunchboxes) come from a Colorado-based company that was founded by two moms who wanted to make sure kids are equipped with the right gear for life. This is another company that offers your kids fun prints and patterns with the right fit, and Wanderwild serves kids and families in their communities too. A portion of each sale of their backpacks and matching lunchboxes helps fight childhood hunger and advocate for spreading kindness and helping with education needs in their local neighborhoods.
Kids of all ages love these comfy backpacks from Fenrici. They have fun and cute patterns for younger kids, and they also have sleek solid packs for those in upper elementary. They’re durable and we love that they have reflector strips that are placed on the front and back for better safety and visibility for your kiddos.
We also love that 5% of the net proceeds from the sale of every Fenrici bag is donated to a non-profit called Global Genes. Global Genes funds research and educational awareness for rare childhood diseases. And a great way to get your kids involved in realizing how they can help make a difference is by heading to their site and reading the stories of ‘heroes’ Fenrici admires and is raising funds for. Your children will have a first-hand view of how to make a difference in the world with the dollars you spend. They also make matching accessories for kids who like to bring on the extra fashion.
And better, The Lego Group has made a commitment to becoming greener and cleaner. The fabric they use comes from recycled polyester and recycled water bottles. This helps reduce energy needs by half, as well as a 20% in reduction in water use and a 60% reduction in air pollution. This means that every Lego backpack helps prevent 11 plastic water bottles from ending up in the landfill. The bags are PVC-free, as well as lead and phthalates-free and all materials are CPSIA compliant.
Plus, you’d be hard-pressed to find kids who wouldn’t dig a Lego backpack.