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Height & Weight Guidelines for Children

by Maggie McCormick, studioD

Maintaining a healthful weight is just as important for children as it is for adults. Your child's doctor should monitor her weight on at least annually and will take note of major changes. If your child seems healthy and active, you generally don't have to worry about her growth, but some developments could be cause for concern.

The Growth Chart

Doctors primarily use a growth chart to see how children grow. In general, you should see similar growth over the years. For example, if he starts out life in the 60th percentile for height, you should expect him to remain in that general percentile throughout his life. A child who is low on the weight percentile chart and high in height will be tall and skinny, while a child low on the height chart and high on the weight chart may be overweight or obese. The doctor will determine the child's body mass index -- a measurement of weight for height -- to determine whether your child has a weight problem.

Beyond BMI

Though many doctors use the BMI as an weight problem indicator, that isn't the only measurement they'll take into consideration. A high BMI doesn't necessarily indicate a weight problem. Children who are big boned or particularly strong may have a high BMI, but still be healthy. Additionally, if your child seems healthy overall, is eating a healthful diet rather than one full of junk, and exercising regularly, but still has a higher-than-normal BMI, your doctor might not be worried.

Signs of Concern

Big changes to either height or weight are usually a sign of concern. The doctor won't necessarily worry that your child's height drops from the 75th to the 73rd percentile, but dropping from the 75th to the 50th is a sign that she's not growing properly. A BMI under the 5th percentile shows that your child is underweight, while one over the 85th percentile show that she's overweight. If this is the case, the doctor will talk to you about diet modifications.

Solutions to Weight Problems

If your child needs to gain weight, you need to increase the amount of calories he takes in daily, preferably in a healthy way. For example, you might switch to whole milk over skim or add a bit of extra peanut butter in his sandwich. When he needs to lose weight, it's best not to put him on a strict diet. Rather, it's better to attempt to increase the amount of healthy, low-calorie foods he eats while decreasing the amount of unhealthful, high-calorie foods. If the afternoon snack has always been a few handfuls of chips, for example, switch to pretzels and hummus or cheese and crackers. These will satisfy the salty craving, while still providing nutrients such as protein and healthy fats. Also, ensure that he gets a proper amount of exercise.

About the Author

Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.

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