Everyone looks different. But even though children all grow and develop at their own pace, parents want to know how their child is developing in relation to other kids. A growth chart can be an important tool in determining health.
Early nutrition plays an important role in the growth of children. Doctors monitor such growth by using a standard growth chart, developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Using data gathered over a period of years from thousands of kids, a child’s growth can be measured in percentile curves. The percentiles show the child’s development in relation to other kids.
For instance, if growth is in the 25th percentile, that means the child’s growth is the same or more than 25 percent of kids in a similar population, and is less than 75 percent of kids in that same population. Higher or lower percentiles are not necessarily problematic. As long as the percentile follows the same pattern over time, growth is normal. It is only when the percentile changes dramatically that there can be cause for concern.
Pediatricians use growth charts to determine growth at the child’s regular check up. Height, weight, and head circumference are measured and charted over time. There are a wide range of acceptable, healthy sizes for kids.
Girls and boys are measured on different charts because they grow and develop differently. There are also separate charts for children from birth to age three, from ages two through twenty, and special charts for kids with special needs.
Weight and height are determined by several factors, including genetics, lifestyle, nutrition, environment, activity, hormones, and overall health and well-being. Healthy, normal growth should continue along the same curve on the chart throughout childhood. Changes in the pattern, or movement off the curve, may signal health problems.
For younger kids (under age three), height and weight should be increasing in proportion to each other. Head circumference maps brain development and generally does not change proportionally with height and weight. Older kids have their height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) measured.