How to Choose the Best Toddler Backpack
Backpacks are a childhood staple that kids use from their first day of school all the way through college and beyond, and it all starts with toddler backpacks.
Backpacks for tiny tots are super handy, so here's what every parent should know before they pick up the first cute one they see.
Do Toddlers Really Need Backpacks?
First off, yes, toddlers totally benefit from having backpacks, and parents get a few perks too. Whenever your toddler starts attending daycare or preschool, a backpack is a must. At school, their backpack is a place to put snacks, a water bottle, a lovey and any projects or notes home from the teacher.
School isn't the only place in which toddler backpacks come in handy. Other places they might use a backpack include:
- At the airport
- On trips to the beach
- On hikes or walks
- To the park
- To friends' houses
Aside from convenience, toddlers enjoy having a backpack all their own to tote favorite toys and treasures they find. It's so much easier to collect leaves when you have a place to put them.
Oversized Backpacks Are a Bad Idea
Toddlers can start carrying some of their own things as soon as they're confident walkers. That said, backpacks should be in proportion to the person carrying them. Aside from the possibility of your two-year-old toppling over backward, backpacks that are too heavy aren't good for their developing spine, shoulders and knees.
A backpack with straps that are too long is also a no-no. Aside from the annoyance of constant slippage, overly long straps cause the backpack to hang, putting more stress on their shoulders.
Some items are fine to size up on, but backpacks should be purchased to fit your child now. By the time they need to size up, it'll be worn (and smelly) anyway.
According to Pediatricians, Skip Toddler Backpacks With Leashes
In addition to toddler backpacks for school, there's a particular type of backpack that has sparked intense controversy over the years: the kind with leashes.
Toddlers, particularly independent ones with a penchant for running off into crowds, can be exhausting to keep up with. The idea of keeping them safe using a backpack or harness with a leash is completely understandable, but most experts advise against it.
Theoretically, leashes can cause injury, like entanglement or falls, and using a physical restraint can hold kids back from developing important skills like impulse control and awareness of surroundings.
The exception? If your child has developmental delays, significant issues with impulse control or any other conditions that make them more likely to put themselves in harms way. In these cases, select a leashed toddler backpack that fits snuggly, and always follow the manufacturer's instructions for use.
What to Look for in a Toddler Backpack
Toddler backpacks come in every color, shape and size. Which one to choose? Ideally, a toddler backpack will meet the following criteria:
- An appropriate size for your child. Between 10-15 inches tall is a good starting point. Some preschools require the backpack to be tall enough to fit a letter-size sheet of paper, so double check before purchasing.
- Wide, padded shoulder straps
- A chest strap to help distribute weight more evenly and add security
- A place to label it with your child's name, preferably inside so their name isn't on display to strangers
- Washability. If a toddler backpack isn't machine washable, you don't want it. Trust us.
Some backpacks also come with an exterior pocket for a water bottle, which is a nice feature to have at the park or on the trail.
Six Backpack Brands Parents and Toddlers Both Love
There are so many backpacks for toddlers out there that are both cute, comfortable and convenient. A lot of it comes down to personal preference. Browse these popular kids' backpack brands, and let your toddler help make the final decision.
- Pottery Barn — Checks all the boxes and has optional matching accessories
- North Face — Great for hiking
- State — A top pick for travel
- Herschel — Comfortable, durable and comes in three sizes
- Bixbee — A uniquely wide-set design that's ergonomic and comfy
- Target — Cute and affordable
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