If you feel like your child grows a little more every time you turn around, you may not be imagining it. Peak height velocity — your child’s biggest, fastest growth spurt — typically lasts 24 to 36 months. And while it’s difficult to say just how much your children will grow during this time, you can count on most of it happening, for girls, between 10 and 14 years, and, for boys, between 12 and 15 years.
Children’s growth involves a complex interplay of different factors including growth plates, nutrition, hormones and physical activities. For example, in contrast to trees, which grow from the ends, a child’s bones cannot just add more tissue to their ends. Instead, bones grow from the inside out.
When a child is born, their skeleton is made of cartilage that are soft and flexible. Each bone is equipped with growth plates that will continue to add in length and width during childhood. As children reach skeleton maturity at the end of puberty, the growth plates harden into solid bone and is closed growth plate. After this point, the bones will no longer grow in length.
As such when it comes to childhood nutrition, it can take a lot more than simply making sure your children eats his or her vegetables. A key indicator of childhood nutrition is not just linear growth or weight gain but also includes organ and brain development. Nutritional limitation in any of these areas can cause long-term problems affecting their growth and development.
WHY NUTRITION IS KEY DURING GROWTH SPURTS
While heights depend primarily on genetics, optimal nutrients in the diet are essential to ensure proper growth and development. Linear growth, including bone elongation and muscle mass growth can occur rapidly during childhood and adolescence, especially during a period called growth spurt.
Because children grow rapidly during growth spurts, they need the necessary nutrition to provide the body energy and nutrients to support this fast development. While some nutrients, such as protein, calcium and phosphorus, form the “building blocks” of bone and tissues, others – such as vitamin D and zinc – play regulatory roles, explains Dr Nina Mazera Mohd Said, Medical Director (Nutrition) at Abbott Malaysia.
During the second and final growth spurt in teenagers typically between 10-15 years old, the period of rapid gain in height is often accompanied by increased hunger and fatigue, as the body uses more energy to build tissue. It is important to ensure that your child’s intake of calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals are sufficient. Worryingly, a 2017 national survey indicated that Malaysian teens are in fact not consuming sufficient growth nutrients and habitually skip meals.
Failure to get the correct nutrients can lead to failure to grow and thrive before growth finally comes to a stop at the end of puberty. For parents who have trouble getting their children to eat enough calories and nutrients and are worried that their children are missing out on this final growth window, oral nutrition supplement like Abbott’s PediaSure 10+ – specifically designed for 10-15 years old – may help to fill these nutritional gaps. Always consider seeking for your paediatrician’s advice before starting your child on food supplement.
HOW TO IDENTIFY A GROWTH SPURT
When keeping tabs on kids’ growth, there are six things you should look out for:
1. They Are Always Hungry
With the increasing nutrition needs associated with growth, your child will likely experience a surge of hunger before and during growth spurts. Ensure that these additional calories come from whole, nutritionally dense food rather than snacks and sweets.
2. They Recently Started Puberty
Peak height velocity, the period in which a child experiences the fastest growth, largely coincides with puberty, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Research in Pediatric Endocrinology. This study found that 95% of girls and about 70% of boys achieve peak height velocity during puberty. So, make sure kids are getting well-balanced nutrition, including plenty of protein, during this time to support rapid growth.
3. Their Pants Are Suddenly Too Short
Children’s legs tend to grow before their torsos do. In fact, leg length and sitting height (aka torso length) can be used to predict the age at which your child will hit peak height velocity, according to the University of Saskatchewan.
4. They Sleep More Than Usual
A lot of growth happens during sleep because secretions of human growth hormone peak throughout the night. Children ages six through 13 should sleep for nine to 11 hours per night to support healthy growth. Teens aged 14 through 17 need eight to 10 hours.
5. They Are Suddenly Crashing into Everything
During growth spurts, rapid height and limb length changes can cause their center of gravity to shift. You may notice that they’re clumsier and accident-prone than usual.
6. They Are Gaining Weight
It is normal for your child’s weight to peak during their growth spurt – during the adolescent phase, teenagers achieve up to 50% of their adult weight gained, and 45% of adult bone mass increase. But pay attention to weight concerns that may arise during this time and be sure to provide constant support. This jump in weight can sometimes contribute to future body image issues, according to a review in “Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics”.