How much should my child weigh?
With child obesity rates skyrocketing in the United States, affecting one of every three children, the obesity epidemic can leave families wondering what an appropriate weight is for their children. Unfortunately, the answer is quite complex and there is no “right” weight. Healthy body weight will vary for each child; even if a child is the same height and age as your child, they may still differ in weight because they have different body types or develop at different rates.
Several factors contribute to children’s body weight including, their size, build, muscular development and gender. Your child may experience rapid periods of weight gain while undergoing body changes caused by pre-puberty and puberty.
Signs of pre-puberty:
- Your child becomes stronger as his muscle mass enlarges, resulting in weight gain.
- You child may achieve improvements in his motor skills, like coordination and strength.
- Your child may experience hair darkening, and changes in her skin texture.
Puberty for girls:
- Girls may begin developing female body changes as early as eight years old while some may not begin to experience changes until thirteen or later.
- Peak growth for height, weight and muscle mass occurs around one year after puberty starts.
- If a girl begins puberty before age eight or if she shows no signs of puberty by age thirteen, talk with her pediatrician.
Puberty for boys:
- Boys typically begin puberty about one year after girls. Some start as early as age nine while some don’t develop until age fourteen.
- Peak growth for height, weight and muscle mass occurs around two years after puberty begins.
- If a boy begins puberty before age nine or if he shows no signs of puberty by age fourteen, speak with his pediatrician.
On average, for both boys and girls, children aged six to twelve can expect to grow a little over two inches a year and gain around 6.5 pounds a year. Children tend to grow in spurts. These individual periods of rapid growth can account for weight differences among children of the same age. Various other factors can contribute to your child's weight.
It’s all in the genes
- Genetics can contribute to your child’s body type as well as how his body stores and burns fat.
- Understanding your own family history can help you and your child’s pediatrician determine the diet and exercise routine that will be healthiest for your child as he grows.
Monitoring your child’s diet and nutritionis key.
- During busy weeknights, it’s tempting to choose quick but unhealthy foods, liked boxed, frozen or fast-food meals. Try creating a nutritious meal schedule a week in advance and plan for quick home-cooked meals or leftovers for hectic evenings.
- Offer your child healthy snacks, such as whole fruits and vegetables.
- Limit your child’s sugar intake. Fruit drinks, sodas, and fruit juices are high in sugar. Offer water to your child when she is thirsty.
Physical activity and play are the best way.
- Put away the screens and pull out the bike. Keeping your child active every day is a great way to make sure he maintains a healthy weight.
- Children ages two to five should play actively several times a day.
- For older children, sixty minutes of exercise or physical activity daily is recommended.
The Body Mass Index, or BMI, can help determine if your child is within a healthy weight range for her height. You can calculate your child’s BMI on your own; however, you’ll want to consult with your doctor for a more accurate BMI result. Usually, a physician will analyze your child’s past and current BMI results while accounting for their current stage of puberty to predict their risk of becoming overweight.
Below are the BMI weight designations. Note that these are different from an adult’s BMI measurement because children grow in spurts and at different rates.
- Underweight: BMI below 5th percentile
- Normal Weight: BMI 5th percentile up to the 85th percentile
- Overweight: BMI 85th percentile up to the 95th percentile
- Obese: BMI at or above the 95th percentile
BMI is not used for children younger than 2. For infants and toddlers, doctors use a weight-for-length chart to determine if children are a healthy weight.
If you are concerned about your child’s weight, consult your child’s pediatrician.
Visit abcquality.org to learn more about child care and development, search for a child care provider and learn about the state’s voluntary quality rating system. ABC Quality is administered by the SC Department of Social Services’ Division of Early Care and Education.
By ABC Quality Team on November 7, 2017