Your Child's Weight
"What's the right weight for my child?" is one of the most common questions parents have. It seems like a simple one, but it's not always easy to answer. People have different body types, so no single number is the right weight for everyone.
Among kids the same height and age, some are more muscular or more developed than others. That's because not all kids have the same body type or develop at the same time.
Growth and Puberty
Not everyone grows and develops on the same schedule. During puberty, the body begins making hormones that spark physical changes like breast development in girls and testicular enlargement in boys and spurts in height and weight gain in both boys and girls. Once these changes start, they continue for several years. The average person can expect to grow as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) during puberty before reaching full adult height.
Most kids gain weight more rapidly during this time as the amounts of muscle, fat, and bone in their bodies change. All that new weight gain can be perfectly fine — as long as body fat, muscle, and bone are in the right proportion.
Because some kids start developing as early as age 8 and some not until age 14, it can be normal for two kids who are the same gender, height, and age to have very different weights.
It can feel quite strange for kids to adjust to suddenly feeling heavier or taller. So it's perfectly normal for a child to feel self-conscious about weight during adolescence — a lot of kids do.
Figuring Out Fat Using BMI
Experts have developed a way to help figure out if someone is in the healthy weight range for his or her height. It's called the body mass index, or BMI. BMI is a formula that doctors use to estimate how much body fat a person has based on his or her weight and height.
The BMI formula uses height and weight measurements to calculate a BMI number. Though the formula is the same for adults and children, figuring out what the BMI number means is a little more complicated for kids.
For kids, BMI is plotted on a growth chart that uses percentile lines to tell whether a child is underweight, healthy weight, overweight, or obese. Different BMI charts are used for boys and girls under the age of 20 because the amount of body fat differs between boys and girls and body fat changes as kids grow.
Each BMI chart is divided into percentiles. A child whose BMI is equal to or greater than the 5th percentile and less than the 85th percentile is considered a healthy weight for his or her age. A child at or above the 85th percentile but less than the 95th percentile for age is considered overweight. A child at or above the 95th percentile is considered obese. A child below the 5th percentile is considered underweight.
Before you calculate your child's BMI, you'll need an accurate height and weight measurement. Bathroom scales and tape measures aren't always precise. So the best way to get accurate measurements is by having kids weighed and measured at a doctor's office or at school.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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