What Does a Growth Chart Measure?
Children's growth charts are used to measure the following:
- Height. If your child is too young to stand, he/she will be measured lying down on a special device that keeps his/her legs straight.
- Weight. With childhood obesity on the rise, pediatricians are especially concerned with monitoring a child's weight. With infants, weight is recorded when the child is completely undressed.
- Head circumference. Head circumference is also measured as part of a newborn's growth chart. Since your baby's head keeps growing at a rapid rate during the first year of his/her life, your child's pediatrician will measure his/her head by placing a flexible measuring tape just above the ears and around the back of his head to measure the spot with the largest circumference.
How Are Children's Growth Charts Used?
Children's growth charts have many different uses. For example:
- A growth chart can compare a child's height and weight to children of the same age, sex, and ethnicity.
- Growth charts can help predict future growth patterns.
- Charts can be used to determine if the child's sudden weight gain is a part of a normal growth spurt or a symptom that warrants additional medical attention.
- Children's growth charts can help reassure parents who are worried a picky eater isn't growing properly.
Finding Growth Charts
Children's growth charts are often found in the reference section of many popular parenting books. Some pediatrician's offices also distribute growth charts to interested parents. However, if you'd prefer to download your own chart, you can use one of the following resources:
If you find the traditional growth charts confusing and your child is under three years old, you can use BabyCenter's Growth Percentile Calculator to quickly get an idea of how he/she compares to his/her peers. If your child is older, try the Children's Growth Calculator from About Pediatrics.
If your child was born prematurely, adopted from an overseas orphanage, or has special needs, traditional children's growth charts might not provide the best assessment of his/her development. In this case, you may want to check out the following helpful resources:
- MedCalc Interactive Growth Charts
- Growth charts for children with Down Syndrome
- Growth charts for children adopted internationally
Should I Be Concerned About My Child?
While children's growth charts do provide useful data, they often cause unnecessary stress for parents who are worried their child may not be "normal." What these anxious parents fail to realize is that all children develop at their own pace. Generally, experts say there is no reason to be concerned about a child whose growth falls between the 10th and 90th percentiles and exhibits a fairly consistent pattern. However, it is best to discuss any concerns you have about your child's development with his/her pediatrician.
Keepsake Growth Charts
Although your doctor will record your child's measurements at every checkup, it's still fun to create your own growth chart. You can purchase keepsake growth charts from the following websites:
If you decide to monitor your child's growth using a keepsake growth chart, don't be surprised if your measurements don't match the ones you receive at the pediatrician's office. Home scales are less accurate than the versions used by medical professionals and small, squirming children can be difficult to weigh or measure accurately.