Nutrition

Understanding growth spurts

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Nutrition

Understanding growth spurts

Growth spurts
Canadian children of recent generations are growing taller than did previous generations because of better nutrition and health care. Today, the range of normal for six-year-olds is 105-122 cm (42-49 in.) tall with a mass or weight of 15-26 kg (33-57 lb.). Through the prepubescent years, this average child grows approximately 5-6 cm (2-2.5 in.) a year, and mass or weight increases by about 2 kg (4.5 lb.) per year.

How your child compares to this average, however, depends on several factors, including his ethnic background and genetic inheritance. In Canada, where many racial and ethnic groups are represented, children and their parents come in different sizes -- their height and weight are determined by the norms for the two families of origin. There is a wide range of normal, so the difference in height among children in a typical elementary school classroom can be as much as 12.5 cm (5 in.).

Girls and boys
Girls may have small growth spurts at the ages of six-and-a-half, eight-and-a-half, and 10; boys at seven, nine, and 10-and-a-half. In between these spurts, growth continues, but less visibly. During the prepubescent years, the extremities of the body grow faster than the torso, giving kids a long-legged appearance. As kids' bones grow, they pull the tendons and muscles along, and the ligaments to which the bones are attached become stretched.

Individuality in growth rates
Kids grow at individual rates. Some parents see their children bursting out of their clothes with regularity every season. Other kids never experience a spurt but grow at a steady pace. Just as adult bodies come in many shapes and sizes, so too do children's bodies. Most children are slimmer during these years than they were as preschoolers. Some youngsters are gangly, especially eight- and nine-year-olds, whose body mass increases more slowly than the lengthening of their skeletons. Other kids -- particularly girls -- remain rounder, keeping the female fat they carry throughout their lives.

When puberty begins, the hormones of estrogen and testosterone have a major impact on development. Girls may begin puberty as early as the age of seven, although most will begin their growth in height at 10-and-a-half. Boys may begin puberty at the age of eight, although most will experience their growth in height at the age of 13. Both boys and girls may experience nighttime "growing pains," although these nonspecific lower leg pains may occur even before the onset of puberty. Warm baths, hot milk, and liniment can help.

Because most girls begin puberty before boys do, their major growth spurts happen earlier, which is why many girls feel that they "tower" over boys in the last years of elementary school. Boys do catch up and then surpass girls in height by the mid-teens, around 15 or so.

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Nutrition

Understanding growth spurts

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