by Brooke Bartlett
The time quickly arrives when your little baby is ready for a backpack. Shopping for a kid's backpack can be quite an adventure since you must balance practical needs with the cool factor your child -- and all of her friends -- demand. You'll want to consider a few different things depending on whether your kid's backpack will be used as a book bag for school or as a pack for overnight trips. But any way you and your child plan to use the backpack, you'll want to choose a stylish bag that will be able to stand up to the wear kids can inflict.
Style: Manufacturers provide lots of options for backpacks in many colors and patterns. If you can convince your kids, try to avoid kids' bags with a character theme. Although your first-grader may love a character from a movie or TV show today, chances are that he will like something else in a few months, and then he will be begging for a new backpack with his new favorite obsession. If your child insists on a character book bag, buy a generic solid-color backpack and add a character zipper pull or a patch to the exterior. You can swap them out when the next fad hits.
Dimensions: Pay close attention to a bag's dimensions. Although most kids' backpacks come in standard sizes, some options labeled "preschool" or "toddler" backpack may be too small to be used as a school backpack. At the very least, you want your child's pack to be able to hold construction paper drawings and notes from the teacher, so purchase a kids' bag that is at least 9 inches by 12 inches.
Features: Some kids' backpacks feature a single compartment while others have many bells and whistles. Think about which features are important for your child now, as well as what might come in handy in the future. Special pockets and dividers can help a school-ager stay organized, while side pockets are great for storing drink bottles. Some backpacks even offer special spots for MP3 players, hand-held game systems, pencils, identification cards and lunch money.
Adjustability: Look for kids' bags with adjustable straps, so that your child can customize the fit of the bag to distribute the weight evenly. Health professionals recommend that children carry less than 15 percent of their body weight in a backpack. If your child needs to carry more than that, look for a backpack that converts into a rolling backpack.