Why Parents Should Focus So Much On Early Growth In Their Kids
Spotting these signs of poor growth early on can really help your child’s development in the long run.
In this day and age of social media, we are always bombarded with so much information online. We see our peers having kids and we watch them post their progress online. Sometimes, we can’t help but to compare our kids with others (even if we don’t want to admit it!).
You might see some of your friends’ kids outgrowing their clothes and shoes at a rapid pace, while your child is in the same clothes they were wearing at the beginning of the year.
Or perhaps you can relate to this: your paediatrician has yet again told you that your child’s progress is slow and they need to catch up. What that means is that your child’s weight and height are not on track.
It can be heartbreaking to hear that your child is experiencing poor growth and parents will start thinking of next steps.
“What should we do?” “What can we do to make sure our child’s physical development improves?”
Firstly, let’s take a look at the long term effects physical developmental delays or poor growth can have on children.
What are physical developmental delays?
Physical growth is crucial in a child’s development, often measured by their weight, height and head circumference.
Though poor weight gain is a common problem in children1, it can be overlooked by parents because we see our kids every day.
It is usually when we visit the paediatrician that they will inform us if our child is not growing on track for their age. Doctors will look at your child’s historical data to determine if they are developing well or stagnating or failing to thrive.
According to paediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Kadakkal Radhakrishnan, toddlers can sometimes lose weight as they become more active, however the child can still continue to progress at a normal rate for their age2.
It is when there’s a significant drop in weight within a single measurement, that they should be taken to a doctor and re-measured to determine if that drop warrants further action.
Why does this happen?
Children may not be gaining weight or growing physically for many reasons. It could be that they are not consuming enough calories or that the nutrition in their food is not adequate.
Sometimes, when this is the case, a doctor might recommend adding on supplements or formula milk to make up for the gap.
What happens if this problem is not addressed early?
It is absolutely critical that parents address poor physical development as early as possible to avoid long-term effects.
One of the outcomes is that the child will continue to be shorter and lighter than their peers in later life3.
Studies conducted have shown that children who fail to thrive may have a lower IQ than their peers in the long run as well as face learning difficulties and behavioural problems. The difference is approximately 3 IQ points on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for children4.
Thankfully, parents can stay ahead of this by spotting the signs of physical development delays early on.
Developmental milestones in children ages 2-5
Developmental delays are defined as an ongoing major delay in the process of development. This means they are not hitting their developmental milestones at the age that they’re supposed to5.
These are some of the developmental milestones for children at 2 years old6:
Social and Emotional
- Knows how to copy your actions or actions of other kids
- Shows more independence in doing daily activities
- Shows defiance
- Is able to interact with other kids
- Points to things and names them
- Knows the names of family members (eg. mama, papa, aunty)
- Says 2 to 4 word sentences
- Follows one or two step instructions
- Repeats words as they hear it
- Sorts shapes and colours in toys
- Is able to play hide and seek
- Builds blocks
- Can kick and throw a ball
- Can run
- Can stand on tiptoe
- Can climb up furniture unassisted
- Can hold a pencil and scribble
These are developmental milestones for children at 3 years old:
Social and Emotional
- Knows how to take turns in games
- Expresses concern for others
- Shows a wide range of emotions
- Is able to separate from parents
- Is able to say their own name, age and gender
- Able to name common items around the house
- Can carry a conversation of 2-3 sentences at a time
- Can name friends and other people outside the nuclear family
- Can draw a circle with a pencil
- Is able to do simple puzzles
- Can open doors and unscrew lids
- Understands numbers
- Can climb well
- Can cycle on a tricycle
- Can walk up and down stairs unassisted
- Runs easily
These are developmental milestones for children at 4-5 years old:
Social and Emotional
- Understands and obeys rules
- Expresses anger more verbally rather than physically
- Understands rules in games
- Is more independent in general
- Speaks with more complex sentences and vocabulary
- Correctly names at least 4-5 colours and shapes
- Understands the concept of time well (eg. morning is time for breakfast)
- Follows three-part commands or more
- Has a longer attention span
- Is able to hop and skip
- Is able to stand on one foot for 9 seconds or longer
- Is able to properly use a fork and spoon
- Is able to brush his or her own teeth
- Is able to walk backwards easily
Signs of developmental delays: When to worry?
If your child has no pre-existing conditions, there should be no reason why they are not hitting their developmental milestones at the appropriate times.
Other general signs of developmental delays can include floppy limbs, stiff arms and legs, limited mobility, inability to sit upright, no control over voluntary or involuntary reflexes, inability to speak or form noises or adapt to certain routines.
If your child is experiencing any of the mentioned symptoms or if they are not hitting their developmental milestones on time, then you need to worry.
The first thing to do is to visit a doctor. The sooner you can diagnose it and address it, the better than chances are for recovery.
Keep them on track with their physical development
Sometimes, if a child is lagging behind their peers in weight and height or falling behind on one or two milestones, it could just be that they need to catch up on their sleep or nutrition.
Nutrition is easily addressed by making sure they have the right balance in their daily intake.
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1 Children’s Health Team. (2020, October 05). 10 Possible Reasons Why Your Child Isn't Growing. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from health.clevelandclinic.org/10-possible-reasons-why-your-child-is-not-growing/
2 Children’s Health Team. (2020, October 05). 10 Possible Reasons Why Your Child Isn't Growing. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/10-possible-reasons-why-your-child-is-not-growing/
3 Rudolf, M., & Logan, S. (2005, September 01). What is the long term outcome for children who fail to thrive? A systematic review. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from adc.bmj.com/content/90/9/925
4 Rudolf, M., & Logan, S. (2005, September 01). What is the long term outcome for children who fail to thrive? A systematic review. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from adc.bmj.com/content/90/9/925
5 Boyse, K. (2010, February). University of Michigan Health System. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/devdel.htm
6 Important Milestones: Your Baby By Two Years. (2020, June 09). Retrieved October 21, 2020, from www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/milestones-2yr.html