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Where Should My Child Land on the Growth Chart?

Where Should My Child Land on the Growth Chart?

Every time you bring your baby, child, or adolescent to Pediatric Practitioners of Oklahoma for a well-child checkup, you can expect our expert team to provide a comprehensive assessment of their health and development, along with support for continued wellness. This includes:

Every wellness exam begins with a review of your child’s growth. If you’re like most parents, you want to know where your child should land on the growth chart. Here’s what growth chart percentiles tell us, and what we’re looking for when we track your child’s growth.   

Tracking growth through childhood

From birth through adolescence, kids grow and develop at their own pace. A child’s growth is influenced by many factors, ranging from genetics, gender, and hormones to nutrition, physical activity, environment, and health problems. Big, small, tall, and short — healthy children have diverse shapes and sizes.

Healthy growth patterns

Given that there’s a wide span of what’s considered “normal” when it comes to assessing a child’s growth, pediatric health care providers use growth charts to determine whether a child’s measurements are “healthy” at a specific point in time — and in the context of their overall growth pattern trajectory through time.

Growth charts defined

A standard part of pediatric wellness visits, growth charts show how your baby, child, or teen is growing compared to other kids of the same age and gender. Growth chart tracking also reveals the pattern of your child’s size increases over time, and shows whether their height and weight are growing proportionately.

Different growth charts

There’s no single growth chart for all kids. Boys and girls grow at varying rates and patterns, so they’re measured on different charts. Special growth charts may be used for babies who were born early (prematurely) or with certain conditions, such as Down syndrome.

Growth charts are also separated into two age groupings. One set of charts covers babies from birth to 24 months, measuring their length, weight, and head circumference at each wellness checkup. Another set of charts covers children over 2 years old, measuring their height, weight, and body mass index (BMI).

Growth chart percentiles explained 

After taking your child’s measurements, we plot them on the appropriate growth chart to see where they land within the curved patterns of percentiles, from low to high. These percentiles show where your child’s growth is compared to other kids of their same gender and age. 

Children who land in higher height and/or weight percentile numbers are bigger than other kids of the same gender and age, and kids who land in the lower percentile ranges are smaller than their average peers.  

 For example, if a 10-year-old boy’s weight falls in the 20th percentile, it means that 20% of boys his age weigh less than he does, and 80% of boys his age weigh more. If a 4-year-old girl’s height is in the 80th percentile, 80% of girls her age are shorter than her, and 20% of girls her age are taller.

An overall healthy growing pattern

Landing in a low weight percentile doesn’t necessarily mean a child isn’t growing as they should; if their height is in a similar percentile, they may simply be smaller than average. If they’re developing normally, especially if their siblings and/or parents are also smaller than average, there’s usually no reason for concern.

 When our pediatric team is assessing growth, what we care most about is the trend at which your child gains weight, height, or head circumference. Why? There’s no “ideal” growth percentile at any age; it’s the growth pattern over time that matters most. 

 Essentially, one specific data point on the growth chart is far less relevant than five data points over time, as they paint a bigger picture of your child’s growth. From one well-child visit to the next, we hope to see that your child:

 Remember, healthy kids come in all sizes. Landing in the 10th percentile is no better or worse than landing in the 90th percentile — children in both these spots can be equally healthy.

Spotting concerns in growth trends 

While growth rates vary at times (i.e., during infancy and puberty), a significant growth pattern variation may indicate a problem. For example, if a child has always been in the 70th percentile for height — but suddenly measures in the 30th percentile at their most recent checkup — the unexpected slowdown may call for investigation and intervention.   

The bottom line on growth charting

The bottom line? There’s no one “ideal” spot on a growth chart for any child — what’s ideal is when your child’s growth follows a relatively steady pattern over time.  

Is it time for your child’s next wellness checkup? Call or click online to schedule a visit at Pediatric Practitioners of Oklahoma in Claremore, Oklahoma, today.

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