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Try the backpack on your child
The only way to be certain you are picking a good preschool backpack is to try it on your child.
Yes, this means shopping in-store with a potentially cranky child – whether normal or special needs – who may not want to co-operate with trying on preschool backpacks. However, trying on the backpack can make all the difference between selecting a great bag and a terrible one. Remember, it’s your child who’ll have to put up with any problems with the school bag – so send your little one off with the right backpack. It needn’t cost a fortune but it does have to fit your child.
What to look for in preschool backpacks
- Good strap fitting – either get a small toddler backpack or make sure it has S-shaped shoulder straps that come in toward your child’s chest.
- Size of backpack – get the smallest size of school bag that can still fit all of your child’s school gear. Does the school send home a communication folder that needs to fit? Will cold-weather gear, a packed lunch or a change of clothes be stored there? For your special needs child, do you need to supply any extras such as diapers or pull-ups, wipes, certain foods or drink, etc? Take these things into account when selecting the size of preschool backpack. Remember, backpacks can look very different on the store shelf than on your child! Two school bags that appear the same size on the shelf may fit very differently on your preschooler.
- Least complexity of pockets – one main section and one or two smaller pockets in front is an ideal configuration for most preschoolers. Avoid bags with multiple pockets of similar sizes – these might be great for older children but not the preschooler. In the case of a special needs preschooler, it’s even more important to keep things simple so the teacher can get to your child’s things quickly without having to hunt in different pockets.
- Waterproof – Luckily, most school backpacks sold in stores are waterproof. Unless you happen to live in a very dry climate, resist the temptation to get a canvas or quilted cotton preschool backpack because these will let water into your child’s belongings.
- Overall look – It helps if your child’s school bag is in a color that is easy to distinguish from the rest in the class. All other factors being equal, select the one which you think other kids are least likely to have.
Personalize the school bag cheaply with a bag tag
This step is where you get to have fun! It’s helpful to personalize your child’s preschool backpack with the name on a bag tag. This assumes stranger danger is not an issue and that your child is having hand-to-hand transfer from home to preschool.
You’ll want it to be clear to the teaching staff as to to whom the school bag belongs. This is especially true of a very shy or special needs child.
You can either make your own tag, re-purpose an existing luggage tag, or purchase a custom made personalized bag tag. My personal favorite is this durable laminated custom bag tag for the youngsters listed on the Yourmonogram shop on Etsy. Expert crafter Candy from Yourmonogram will design colors, font etc to your specifications, or you can simply send her a pic of the backpack and tell her your child’s name and let her do it all from there. I bought my children’s tags from her, and they’ve lasted for over 3 years of active use! These tags are still going strong: we eventually took my oldest child’s tag off in first grade because he thought tags were babyish at that point. So, it’s a mom-tested durable product.
If your child has any learning difficulties, you may want to choose just one or two tag colors and a big bold font. This will aid toward the aim of making it easier for your special needs child to eventually recognize the tag and name by him or her self.
I much prefer using a bag tag than monogramming the bag itself. Why? Because when your child is done with the bag, the tag can simply be removed and the bag can be handed down to a younger sibling or given away to charity. You can’t really do that with a monogrammed bag.
There are a lot of preschool backpacks out there. Selecting the best one for your normal or special needs child is easy when you follow these tips. Fortunately, you needn’t spend a lot of money to get a great fitting backpack for your preschooler. Happy shopping!