Physical growth of a child

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Physical growth and development in childhood and in early childhood – Note the stages of development of child health and psychology. Keep a record of the children’s physical development milestones, weight, height, head size and all about teething of a child

Physical growth and development of childhood

Watching your child grow in size and unfold the various stages of development in childhood – such as to reach for your hand, to sit, to walk and to speak is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating pursuits.

The experience gives you lots of enjoyment, pleasure and, what is more, knowledge and understanding of the child. And, understanding of growth and development contributes enormously to the child’s intelligent management.

One suggestion that will stand you in good stead and give you immense satisfaction and pleasure once the baby has rapidly grown up: Maintain a baby booklet and jot down the points of interest about your observations in the physical growth of your child.

What is the difference between physical growth of a child and development of a child ? Physical development definition in children –

Growth is a measure of physical maturation. It signifies an increase in the size of the body and its different organs. Thus, it can be measured in terms of centimeters or inches and kilograms or pounds.

Physical growth and development in childhood

Development is a measure of functional maturation. It signifies accomplishment of mental (acquisition of skills, etc.), emotional (development of attitudes, etc.) and social (adaptability to family and society, etc.) abilities.

Unlike growth, it is rather difficult to assess development.

Generally speaking, growth and development are so closely interrelated that it is virtually not quite possible to separate one from the other. Consequently, in practice, the two terms are either used together or, if used separately, usually denote synonymous meaning.

Growth of different body systems happens at a different pace. The nervous system shows maximum growth in the first year of life. Thereafter, it grows very little.

Why is physical development so important for children?

A serious disturbance of growth may affect the development of brain. As a result, delay in the acquisition of such skills as walking, social adaptation and speech occurs.

It must be clearly understood that the speed at which growth occurs is not the same at various ages. In the first six months it is exceedingly rapid so that a six-month-old is double his birth weight.

By the end of the first year, the birth weight trebles. A child of two years weighs four times his birth weight. In the following years and until puberty, growth happens at a slower pace.

Physical growth and development in childhood

It is of interest to note that at different ages, the body growth is not uniform. As for instance, during infancy, the head is much larger in relation to the size of the rest of the body.

This proportion gradually changes to assume the adult ratio in the subsequent years of childhood and during adolescence.

Also, in younger, children, the limits are relatively short. With the passage of years, their length increases at a greater pace than that of the trunk and the head.

Doctors find the relationship between sitting height (trunk and head) with total height a useful index in the diagnosis of certain disorders of growth.

What influences physical growth and development in childhood?

In the first place, hereditary factors have a great bearing on the eventual constitution of the body. Tall parents are very likely to have tall children.

Nutritional factors and proper diet also influence the growth and development in a considerable way. Malnutrition retards a child’s physical growth and development.

There is some evidence that it may affect his intellectual performance if it occurs fairly early in infancy and still worse if it affects the baby in the womb.

Several other factors, including socio-economic status, emotional, environmental and seasonal influences, chronic diseases and infections also affect growth.

It is generally held that the smaller the child at birth, the smaller is he likely to be in the subsequent years. The bigger the child at birth, the bigger is he likely to be later.

Thus, the growth potential is somewhat indicated by the child’s size at birth.

physical growth and development in childhood


On an average, the ideal birthweight is said to be about 3.4 kg. The infant doubles his weight by the age of five to six months and trebles it by one year. He increases it four times in two years, five times in three years, six times in five years and ten times in ten years.

You must have your child’s weight checked at birth. He should also be frequently weighted in the first few weeks of life. A poor weight gain may be a warning signal drawing attention to a disease or underfeeding.

Do not weigh him every now and then after that. The practice is not only unnecessary but also undesirable. You will only be wasting time by doing so and also inviting unnecessary worries.

As long as your child is happy, energetic and kicking about and the doctor feels he is normal, do not start worrying even if he is little below average in weight.

Length/ height

On an average, the ideal length of a full-term healthy infant at birth is 50 cms. It steps up to 60 cms at three months, 70 cms at nine months, 75 cms at one year, 85 cms at four years. Therefore, the child gains a little over 5 cms every year until the onset of puberty.

Head size

For your incidental interests, if the brain does not develop normally as is the case in one type of mental retardation, the head size is likely to be small. It is called microcephaly.

Occasionally, the small size of the head may be due to premature union of the skull sutures. A large head may be the result of hydrocephalus or rickets.

Remember, a marginally large head (macrocephaly) may well be a family trait. It is just normal.

Teething (dentition)

The average age at which the first tooth appears is six to seven months. The rest of the milk teeth appear at the rate of one tooth every month.

physical growth and development in childhood

Thus, the number of teeth in an infant is age in months minus six. By 2 ½  to 3 years, the child has a full set of milk teeth numbering 20.

Generally, the lower central and the lateral incisors appear earlier followed by first molars, cuspids and second molars in succession.

The first permanent teeth – the so-called six-year-molars – are sometimes confused with the temporary teeth.


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