Am I growing up normally?
genes; growth; percentile; weight; height; puberty; hormones; gender; sex; right; thin; fat;
Many factors influence the way you grow, your body shape and how tall you will be as an adult.
The most important of these is your genes.
- You got one set of genes from your mum and another set from your dad at the time when dad's sperm and mum's egg got together. You can find out more about this in our topic Sexual reproduction – how babies are made. Their genes became a set of instructions for how fast and how tall you will grow, as well as what you will look like and a whole lot of other stuff.
- what and how much you eat
- exercise (how active you are)
- sex (boy or girl)
- when puberty happens for you
- health problems
- hormones (which affect growth)
- your environment (where you live)
Look around at the kids in your class. You are all probably around the same age.
- Are all the girls the same height and weight?
- Are all the boys the same height and weight?
They won't be because everyone's genes and how they live and stage of development (perhaps puberty) are different.
Doctors understand this. If you are worried that you are the smallest, tallest, most developed, heaviest or skinniest kid in your class then you can talk to your doctor. Your doctor will have growth charts to check your height and weight to find out if there is a problem with your growth.
Kids in Australia will have a Child Health Record (called the 'Blue Book' in South Australia) in which there are growth charts. Right from being a baby you will have been measured and weighed, and your growth will be shown on your own personal charts. Your doctor or a nurse will have talked to your parents about your growth.
Have a look at your growth charts to see how you are growing. Your mother will be able to help you understand the charts.
- The first group of charts show length, weight and circumference of the head from birth up to 3 years.
- The second group of charts are from 2 to 20 years of age and they show weight and height.
There are different charts for girls and boys.
Growth charts show the pattern of your growth using percentiles (say per-sent-iles).
- Percentiles are measurements that show where your growth is compared with others. For example on your weight chart if you are a girl and your weight is around the 10th percentile for your age then 10% of other girls your age will be lighter than you and 90% will weigh more.
There is at times a big difference between the heights and weights of girls or boys in the same age group.
- At around 12 years old girls are often taller than boys because puberty often happens earlier for girls than boys.
- The time of puberty happens at different times for each girl and boy so some girls and will grow taller than others when they are the same age. Some boys and girls will be taller than others when they are around 10 to 14 or so, then end up around the same height as most others when they have reached the end of puberty. This depends on your genes and hormones.
If your height moves above or below your original percentile range it is probably because your genes are making you grow earlier or later, or taller or shorter than other kids. If you are worried that you are going to be too short or too tall have a talk with your doctor.
You had your biggest growth spurts before you were born and in your first year, when you were a baby. You will have grown about 75cm from an egg that is so small that it can only be seen with a microscope! Wow!
Fortunately your growth rate slows down after that to a steady rate of a few centimetres a year.
The next big growth spurt happens at puberty when girls and boys start changing from kids into adults. (We have many topics about puberty if you want to find out more.)
- Because different kids start puberty at different ages you will notice that some kids in your class will be growing fast while others don't seem to be growing much at all.
- Some kids start growing later than most others and may not finish growing until they are in their 20's.
- Some kids seem to get fatter before a growth spurt and then look thinner again afterwards.
- Others may grow really quickly at first until they are the tallest kid in primary school but they may not grow very much after that and might be average height or maybe a bit less by the time they leave high school.
Some kids get pains in their legs which might get called 'growing' pains. These pains are not caused by growing, and usually happen before puberty which is before fast growing happens. Our topic on Growing pains will tell you more.
We get lots of feedback from kids about weight. A lot of it is from early teens who are worried that they are too fat, too tall, too small or too thin!
Kids are not all the same size, shape, weight at the same age - and nor are adults.
- Our genes set the pattern for our natural body size and shape.
- Our metabolism [how fast we burn the fuel from our food] can explain why some people can “eat like a horse” and still be skinny while others only seem to ‘look at a cake’ and put on weight!
- Our lifestyle, the way we live our lives, has a big impact on the way we look. Many people in our society are eating more food than they need to keep themselves healthy.
If you have a healthy diet, sleep well and get enough exercise, then you will grow up to be ‘just the right weight’ for you.
Have a look at these topics Weight - how much should you weigh? and Who says you're overweight?
Dealing with teasing
Kids, and adults, can be cruel at times and want to tease or pick on anyone who is a bit different.
- Often kids can be given nicknames which are about their height, weight or physical development. See our topic Nicknames.
Before you think about calling someone 'Shrimp' or 'Hulk' or any other name related to how someone looks then ask yourself these questions.
- Would you like to be called names?
- Would you like to be teased in this way?
Hopefully you are the kind of person who would answer "NO" to those questions and would be ready to stick up for anyone who was being teased in this way. These topics may have some hints for you:
If someone is teasing you or using put downs to make you feel bad then you need to remember that this not okay. This is bullying and you need to work out how to deal with it.
You do not have to put up with bullying. This topic can help you:
- "When I grow up I would like to be tall, pretty, smart and active." Jess
- "When I grow up I want to be tall, beautiful and healthy so I will die of old age." Steph
- "Some people are short
Some people like sport
Some people are tall
Some like kicking a ball."
- "People are tall
People are small
People are fat
Some can't swing a bat.
People are skinny
Some are 'mini'
Doesn't matter what you are
Grow up healthy and you'll go far."
- "Teenagers like sleeping.
Toddlers like waking them up!"
Dr Kim says
Have you ever watched puppies playing? They can be fun to see as they fall over each other and their own feet. When you are having a growth spurt you can feel a bit the same!
- You may get heavier then suddenly get taller and grow out of your clothes and shoes.
- Some kids get taller and much skinnier then gradually fill out.
- Other kids get heavier and don't seem to be growing taller.
If you are worrying about your growth then it's a good idea to go and have a talk with your doctor.
Look under the Feedback button on the right for links to the other topics that can help you.
We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.