Helping Children Grow Physically

Physical Growth

Physical growth is an increase in size and height. It occurs in an orderly sequence until a person reaches adulthood. Heredity, nutrition, and health all contribute to a person's final height and size.


By the time a baby is a year old, it has grown from 20 inches as an infant to 30 inches. At age two, a toddler is about 36 inches tall. At age three, they are 39 inches tall. As you can see, during a child's third year, the growth rates slows down dramatically to about 10%. During the first year the child has a 50% growth rate.

During the preschool and school-age years, the child continues to grow steadily. The average height is 2-3 inches per year. At age 10 though, the physical growth rate changes. The growth starts to take place in spurts and stops, and varies greatly. Next to infancy, adolescence is the second fasted period of growth.

A child who is in the middle of a growth spurt may find that different body parts are growing at different times. The arms, legs, hands, and feet usually grow faster than the actual body. The child might feel awkward, bony, and clumsy. Girls go through this process about 2 years before boys.


Weight is another measure of physical growth. At one year, a toddler has usually tripled their birth weight. During the toddler years, a child gains about half a pound a month. By the time a child is five years old, they will weigh about 45 pounds. During the school-age years, a child gains about 4-5 pounds a year.


The proportions of a child's body also change. During infancy, a baby's arms and legs are short in comparison to the head and body. During the toddler years, there is a rapid growth of the arms, legs, and lower body. This changes the body's proportions and redistributes the weight. The baby becomes less top-heavy and has better balance than before. During the preschool and school-age years, the body becomes straighter and slimmer. The abdomen flattens, the shoulders widen, and the legs lengthen. The muscles and skeletal system become more developed.


By age one, a baby usually has 6 teeth. During the toddler period, 14 of the entire set of 20 baby teeth usually come in. For many children, the first tooth comes out during kindergarten or first grade. For some children, this does not happen until later. When a baby tooth becomes loose naturally, the permanent tooth is usually close behind. When children are between 7 and 12 years old, permanent teeth usually replace their 20 temporary teeth. More molars are added during the teen years until there are 32 permanent teeth.


A girl develops breasts, and her pelvis and hips broaden. A boy's penis and testes grow larger, and his shoulders broaden. Body hair develops under the arms, in the pubic region, and on the legs. All of these growth activities are triggered by hormones.

Motor Skill Development

Large Motor Skills

  • Large motor skills are those involving the control and use of large muscles
  • Generally, three-year-olds walk well and can run and climb
  • Preschoolers can imitate dance steps to music and walk a balance board with confidence


  • As you learned earlier, babies develop in a head-to-toe direction
  • Learning to walk means learning a series of skills
  • Putting one foot in front of the other may seem simple
  • For some weeks before they walk, babies like to be held up so that they can put their weight on the floor
  • Learning to walk changes toddlers' whole world

Catching & Throwing

  • Young children can catch a large ball by scooping it into their arms and holding it against their chest in a bear hug
  • During an early stage of learning to throw a ball, a child tosses the ball and steps off with the foot on the same side as the throwing arm
  • Combining skills comes naturally after children are able to catch, throw, run, and jump

Riding a Tricycle & Bicycle

  • During their third year, many children begin to learn a ride a tricycle
  • By five years of age, many children want to ride a two-wheeled bicycle.
  • When buying a bicycle, parents should choose a size that is appropriate for the child's size

Small Motor Skills

  • Small motor skills are those involving the control and use of small muscles, especially those in the fingers and hands
  • Toddlers begin using their hands with a full-fist grasp
  • By age three, most children can build a tower of blocks and manipulate puzzles with large pieces
  • During the school-age years, children are involved in writing, drawing, and cutting with scissors

Hand Preference

  • At about age two, children's hand preference begins to develop
  • Whatever the hand preference, parents and teachers should encourage children to practice their small motor skills

Influencing Motor Skill Development

  • Parents and caregivers have many opportunities to guide a child's motor skill development
  • Unfortunately, many children do not get as much exercise as they should
  • Children can practice large motor skills at home, on the sidewalk, or at the park
  • Parents should also provide children with toys and equipment that encourage the use of their hands and fingers
  • Mastering motor skills requires much practice and patience for youngsters

Food Needs of Older Children

  • During the early school years, children may be picky eaters one year and hearty eaters the next
  • School-age children become increasingly able to understand the nutritional facts that parents and teachers present
  • Adolescence is a time of rapid growth and great activity
  • This is the time when teenagers assume responsibility for their own food choices
  • Parents and caregivers need to lay the foundation for healthy eating habits when children are young


Selecting Children's Clothing

  • Appropriate for the child
  • Appropriate for the occasion
  • Durable
  • Easy care
  • Safety
  • Ease of dressing
  • Affordable


  • "I can do it. I can do it," said three-year-old Juanita with strong emphasis on the I
  • Children are eager to learn how to dress themselves
  • Sometimes children mix colors, patterns, and styles to a parent's dismay

Personal Hygiene

Toilet Training

  • Learning to use the toilet is another great achievement for toddlers
  • Toilet training should start when the child begins to show an interest in using the toilet and in being dry
  • Some children may be afraid of falling into the adult toilet and never should be forced screaming onto one
  • Adults should never scold, embarrass, or punish a child for having an accident during the course of toilet training
  • During toilet training, adults should offer encouragement and praise as the child works on this set of new skills
  • Most four-year-olds are dry during the day and night


  • Bathing is fun for children
  • Washing children's hair can be combined with bathing
  • When using a shower, many young children like to be held by a parent until they become used to the water falling over their face
  • School-age children often show little concern for personal cleanliness
  • As children approach adolescence, they become more concerned with their body and their appearance.

Care of Teeth

  • Teeth play an important part in a person's appearance
  • Dentists suggest that brushing should begin by age two
  • Fluoride is a mineral that makes tooth enamel resistant to cavities
  • Regular dental examinations are important for children, as well as adults.
  • Bye age twelve, most children have lost all their baby teeth and have most of their permanent teeth

Health Care

  • Heath care also affects children's physical growth a d development
  • Three and four year olds need a medical checkup twice a year
  • School-age children should visit a doctor or clinic yearly


  • Parents learn to recognize common signs of physical illness
  • When children have a high fever, they usually sleep most of the time
  • Children should not go to school if they have a fever or a bad cough


  • Hospitalization can be a very frightening experience for a young child
  • If parents know in advance that their child will be hospitalized, they can prepare the child
  • Children are perfectly capable of understanding the truth