What Is a Normal Growth Rate for Young Children?

A pediatrician measures a child's height.
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What Is a Normal Growth Rate for Young Children?

A normal rate of growth is one that follows the curves on the standardized growth charts used by pediatricians. While charts have been used for the past 50 years to track children's growth, they were updated to the current versions in 2000 to reflect greater ethnic and cultural diversity.

Taking regular measurements of your child's height, weight, and head circumference and plotting them on a growth chart are a good way to see if their growth is normal. Your pediatrician takes these same measurements and uses them to assess your child's physical development.

Tracking Your Child's Growth with Charts

Growth charts are available online for parents and caregivers to print out. You can also ask for a copy of your child's chart at your pediatrician's office.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using the following growth charts:

  • World Health Organization (WHO) charts for children 0-2 years old
  • CDC growth charts for children older than 2 years

Both of these charts are available on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website.

One point to remember is that your child's percentile on the chart is not as important as their rate of growth. Your pediatrician will look at whether they are following the normal growth curve and staying at roughly the same percentile.

For example, a child who measures at the 10th percentile for height and weight at birth and stays close to that percentile throughout childhood and adolescence would be considered to have normal growth.

Although the curves on growth charts look like smooth arcs, children do not grow at a completely consistent rate. At certain stages, growth spurts are common. A major growth spurt occurs in the first year of life, and another happens in puberty, between 8 to 13 years old for most girls and 10 to 15 years old for most boys.

Why It's Important

Tracking a child's rate of growth is an important indicator of whether your child is developing normally. For instance, if their height is increasing more slowly than their weight, your child may be at risk of becoming overweight.

On the other hand, if their weight increase is not keeping up with their height (e.g. they were at the 50th percentile for weight a year ago but now are at the 20th percentile), your child's doctor may look for underlying causes of the lack of weight gain.

Many issues influence growth, including genetics, chronic illness, and even nutrition and exercise. For instance, a child who has Down syndrome or undiagnosed celiac disease may be shorter than their peers, while someone with a genetic condition called Marfan syndrome could be taller. In addition, weight gain is directly influenced by diet and physical activity as well as genetics.

Normal Weight Gain in Boys and Girls

General guidelines for your younger child's growth rates for weight include:

  • 2 weeks: Regains birth weight and then gains about 1 1/2–2 pounds per month
  • 3 months: Gains about 1 pound per month
  • 6 months: Doubles birth weight
  • 1 year: Triples birth weight and then gains about 3-5 pounds over the year
  • 2-5 years: Gains about 4–5 pounds per year
  • 9–10 years: Increased weight gain as puberty approaches, often about 10 pounds a year

In addition to monitoring your child for poor weight gain, it is also important to make sure your child isn't gaining too much weight.

Height Growth Rates

General guidelines for your child's growth rates for height include:

  • 0–12 months: Grows about 10 inches (25 cm)
  • 1–2 years: Grows about 5 inches (13 cm)
  • 2 years to puberty: Grows about 2 1/2 inches per year

You can also use your child's height to try and predict how tall they will be when they grow up.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI is included in the WHO growth charts for children 0-2 years old. By calculating a person's BMI, we can get an estimate of their body fat percentage and whether they are at a healthy weight or not.

The BMI growth chart allows physicians and parents to see whether a child is at a healthy weight for their height.

BMI Calculator

If you'd like to determine your child's (or your own) BMI, check out the CDC's BMI calculator.

Head Circumference Growth Rates

While head circumference isn't usually followed by parents as closely as a child's height and weight, it is checked by your pediatrician as an indicator that the brain is growing. They will also make sure that your child's head isn't too small (microcephaly) or too big (macrocephaly). Either one of these extremes can indicate medical conditions that require treatment.

General guidelines for your younger child's growth rates for head circumference include:

  • 0–6 months: 1/2 inch per month
  • 6–12 months: 1/4 inch per month
  • 1–2 years: 1 inch over the entire year

By the time children teach their second birthday, their heads have reached 90 percent of their adult size. That's a lot of growing in just 2 years!

Tips for Parents

It's a good idea to measure your child's height and weight every 6 months and plot it on a growth chart at home. Keep an eye on the measurements to see if your child is following their growth curve.

If you have a copy of your child's growth chart from the pediatrician's office, you can look at where the points are marked and line them up with the percentiles listed on the chart.

No matter where your child falls on the growth chart, you can help them learn to accept their bodies. If you have a child who is a different size than most of their peers, they may encounter problems with teasing that can lead to self-esteem issues.

Try helping them choose activities that are not dependent on height or weight, such as tennis or soccer, or consider non-sports activities like art, theater, or music.

Also remember not to compare your child's growth to their siblings or friends. Focus instead on character qualities and non-physical attributes. This can help create a more well-rounded self image for your child—something that's important for everyone to cultivate, regardless of size.

Reasons to Talk to Your Doctor

You may want to contact your pediatrician about your child's growth if you notice any of the following:

  • Their growth drops off from the normal curve it's been following for a period of several months or more
  • They are noticeably smaller than other children their age, and factors such as family history have been ruled out
  • They grow less than 3 1/2 centimeters (about 1 1/2 inches) per year after their third birthday

A Word From Verywell

Remember that these are general guidelines. Your child may grow a little more or a little less than this each year. If you are concerned that your child is not gaining enough weight or height, be sure to talk to your pediatrician.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. How to read a growth chart: percentiles explained. September 1, 2015.

  2. Nemours KidsHealth. Your child's growth. Updated October 2018.

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Predicting a child's adult height. January 27, 2016.

  4. MedlinePlus. Normal growth and development. February 26, 2021.

  5. American Academy of Pediatrics. Physical appearance and growth: your 1 year old. August 1, 2009.

  6. Stanford Children's Health. Growth problems in children. 2021.