More Than Words | RTS Blog

Small Kids, Big Backpacks

Is your child’s backpack loaded up and full of books? Is he starting to complain of backaches? Do his shoulders hurt?

Carrying too much weight in a bookbag or wearing the bag incorrectly, can lead to some issues for your student. In fact, a student’s backpack can be the culprit for a number of aches and pains as well as poor posture and weakened muscles.

While you may not be able to do anything about the workload and books your student brings home each day, you can give him some tips to ensure he’s properly using his bookbag to curb unnecessary pain.

Backpack Tips

Loading a backpack:

  • Make sure all items in the bag are needed that day
  • Place the heaviest items against the back of the bag
  • Use outside pockets to carry smaller items
  • Try to fill compartments and pockets evenly to distribute weight

Students who wear their bookbags correctly will also lessen their risk of shoulder and back pain. Make sure your child knows the right and wrong way to wear their backpack.

Wearing a backpack:

  • Utilize both shoulder straps for even weight distribution
  • Tighten the shoulder straps to ensure the bag doesn’t hang loosely on the shoulders
  • Adjust the straps, so the bag sits in the curve of the child’s lower back when worn
  • Wear both the waist and chest straps
  • Wear the backpack only when necessary

Raleigh Therapy Services Occupational Therapist Maria Georgiou added, “Your child’s backpack should not weigh more than 10 percent of his total body weight. If it does, speak with his teacher to find a solution to lessen the weight of the bag by reviewing the actual contents he needs to complete his work.” 

Buying a Backpack

Another item to consider in reducing your child’s backpack pain is to determine if you purchased the right bag for him and his school needs.

Important features to consider when selecting a backpack include:

  • Organizational pockets and compartments
  • Waist and chest straps
  • Two wide-padded shoulder straps
  • Extra back padding
  • Lightweight canvas material
  • Structure and size; a book bag should not be larger than the child’s back

Continued Back or Body Pains

If your student continues to experience back or body pains even after discussing the proper way to wear and load his bookbag, you may want to speak with his pediatrician. She may want to see him to assess your concerns and determine if an ergonomic evaluation is needed.

  Filed under: Awareness, Occupational Therapy, Parenting Tips

Mastering After School Meltdowns

School is back in session. New kindergarteners are learning what it means to be a student. First-graders are getting reacquainted with their desks and new classroom routines. The big kid third-, fourth- and fifth-graders are catching up with friends, navigating the schoolyard and digging into their studies and homework. And nearly all of them are coming home and melting down, right?

I hear from many parents of elementary-age children who share similar stories about the challenges they face after school dismal. The struggle is real.

“My son is a kindergartener, and while he’s excited to go to school each day, he’s coming home exhausted and emotional,” said Allison Crumpler, speech-language pathologist and director of clinical compliance for Raleigh Therapy Services. “I know he is trying hard to sit still and pay attention during class and that takes a lot out of a new student. It’s no wonder he comes home ready to fall apart.”

It is common for children, especially for younger students, to come home mentally and physically exhausted from school. Consider your student’s day—new learnings, exciting experiences, and fast-paced transitions. Not to mention, your student may eat lunch early in the day and come home with a hungry tummy. No wonder your little one is tired and emotional and nearing the brink of a meltdown every afternoon.

Hopefully, your student will soon acclimate to the school setting and build stamina to take on school-day demands, and you’ll see her behavior improve. In the meanwhile, here are some strategies to consider as you address her challenging behaviors.

Keep quiet

Sure you want to know all about your daughter’s day and what she did in class, but better to wait a bit before you start your questions. Greet her with a simple hug and positive “hello” and then permit her time to decompress. Give her the time and space to zone out and settle in your home setting and then ask her about class.

Attack with a snack

Does your child arrive home from school starving dangerously close to entering the “hangry” zone? Face that hunger head on with a healthy snack to boost her energy and mood.

Limit screen time

It’s not a bad idea to let your daughter watch her favorite TV show to calm down upon arriving home. However, you should try to limit after-school screen time to a maximum of 20 or 30 minutes.

Avoid overscheduling

Do your best to avoid overscheduling your daughter’s afternoons. She will come home tired from a full day at school and will need free time to wind down and relax.

Make time to play

Try to find time to play with your child—coloring, crafting, tossing a ball, anything she finds fun. Your one-on-one attention will help her reconnect with you and feel less overwhelmed from her school day.

Hunker down with homework

Set up a designated space and specific time for your daughter to do her homework. She will find comfort knowing her homework routine, which will help to lessen her stress for this daily task. 

Stick with bedtime

One, if not the most important, ways for you to help your daughter navigate her new school schedule is to keep her bedtime consistent. Most 5-year-olds need 10 or more hours of sleep each night to feel well rested the next day. A well-rested child will have a leg up on a new day.


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  Filed under: Parent Education, Parenting Tips, Therapy Ideas

Dealing with a Picky Eater

Are meal times a struggle for you and your little one? You are not alone. The struggle to get your child to eat is very real and quite often a frequent frustration for parents of toddlers.

You may have noticed that your child’s picky eating surfaced after she turned one and gained new skills like feeding herself. She’s now aware that she can choose what and how much of something she wants to eat. She now has more “control” over her plate and portions. Some days she may choose to eat a lot, others days she may refuse items that she usually eats without fuss.

Another tactic newly independent eaters may employ is eating only familiar foods or refusing to eat certain foods for silly reasons like color or shape. This behavior happens when a child attempts to create “sameness” to promote feelings of safety and security.

Fortunately, for most children, picky eating is merely a developmental stage that will quickly pass. In the meanwhile, you can help your child get through this pretentious palate phase for more enjoyable mealtime experiences.

Say No to Bribes and Force-Feeding

As easy as it is to offer up a bribe to convince your daughter to eat her vegetables to earn dessert, do your best to resist the urge and endless plate pleas. A child who learns to make deals about eating will also discover the power to make deals and ask for rewards for doing other tasks. Bribes at the dinner table may lead to your child expecting rewards for other things like brushing her teeth, picking up her toys, or cooperating with the task at hand.

You should also avoid forcing your daughter to eat if she isn’t interested or hungry. At her young age, her stomach is about the size of a small, clenched fist; it doesn’t take much to fill it. Force-feeding her will teach her to rely on others to tell her how much to eat and when she is full. Force-feeding can also lead her to eat less and make her picky eating behaviors worse.

Present New Foods Again and Again (and Again)

Research shows that children need to see a new food at least 10 times before they may be willing to try it. Increase your daughter’s exposure to new foods by asking her to help you prepare meals. Give her the chance to touch the food, help measure and stir. She’ll be excited to see and taste the foods she creates.

You can also implement food crafts as part of your daughter’s playtime activities. Let your daughter touch, smell and play with different snack items like pretzels, carrot sticks, raisins, puffs, whatever you have around the house. Seeing different foods in a new light will help her become comfortable with the idea of eating them.

Build A Routine

Toddlers like predictability. Establishing a structured feeding routine with timely snacks and meals will help curb your daughter’s grazing behaviors and allow her to feel hunger that will likely lead her to eat to fullness during meal times.

Serve It All Up

Do your best to offer up a mix of foods with different textures, tastes and smells that your daughter likes and dislikes. Introduce new foods along with the foods she already likes to eat. Give her the same foods the rest of the family is eating in small, toddler-sized portions. Over time, these new choices should become as liked and familiar as her favorite foods.

When is picky eating more than picky eating?

While it is common for toddlers to go through a picky eating phase, it’s important to remember that it shouldn’t last long. If it does, you may want to speak with your pediatrician to determine if your child’s behavior is stemming from underlying medical, oral motor or developmental issues.

You can trust your pediatrician to assess your concerns and help determine if a pediatric feeding therapist should evaluate your daughter to offer further insight into the situation.


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  Filed under: Feeding Development, Parent Education, Raleigh Therapy Services