A Guide to Predicting Height for Kids Aged 3 to 10

How big are most toddlers? How tall should a 10 year old be? Read on to learn more about the average height of children—and to predict your kiddos size.

Black girls measuring their height on wall
Photo: Getty/LWA/Dann Tardif

It can be exciting to watch your baby grow by leaps and bounds, doubling their birth length by age three, but don't expect that rapid pace to continue. Once children leave toddlerhood, the growth spurts end. Rather, they suspend—at least until puberty. Between the toddler and tween years, children grow at a slower but steady pace.

But what should you expect, developmentally speaking? What do you need to know about your toddler's size—or 10 year olds height? Here's everything you need to know about elementary-aged growth, from when it happens to how you can predict it.

What Is a Growth Spurt?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a growth spurt is a fast increase in an adolescent's growth in height and weight that occurs in "the long bones and most other skeletal elements." Because these intense periods of growth are fueled by hormones typically triggered at the onset of puberty, they are unusual in prepubescent children.

Elementary school-age kids gain about 6 pounds and grow 2 inches in height each year, but "a typical growth spurt in the middle of puberty can be twice that," says Zoltan Antal, M.D., chief of pediatric endocrinology at New York-Presbyterian Komansky Children's Hospital and Weil Cornell Medicine.

What Are the Most Common Growth Spurt Symptoms?

Your child may exhibit symptoms during "mini growth spurts," like eating and sleeping more than they normally would, for a couple of days or even a couple of weeks before going back to their usual routine. "That could be sign that they're going through a growth spurt," says Danton Kono, M.D., pediatrician with Dignity Health Mercy Medical Group in California, who stresses the importance of sleep and nutrition for a child's development. But keep in mind: Your child's diet shouldn't suffer just because they may be going through a growth spurt. Keeping up healthy habits is key when it comes to caring for growing kids.

"One of the common misconceptions I hear from parents is that their child 'always chunks up before he gets tall,' and occasionally that's true, but more often than not kids are getting heavy and staying heavy because they're eating the wrong things or they're not getting enough exercise," says Dr. Kono. "They will grow just fine eating healthy foods—they don't need tons of calories or extra fat during times of growth."

As for sleep, pre-tween kids need 10 to 12 hours per night because the body releases hormones that control growth during sleep. "Kids who don't get good sleep don't grow as well or heal from injuries as well, and they may suffer from emotional problems and get sick more often," says Dr. Kono.

Growing pains can happen during this age too—think calf, knee, or thigh pain that starts at bedtime and is gone by morning—but persistent pain shouldn't be brushed off as a growth spurt symptom. "If a kid's legs hurt and he or she keeps complaining of joint pain or swelling in the morning, that cold be juvenile arthritis," says Dr. Kono. "We don't want to miss something by incorrectly blaming it on growing pains."

What Is a Growth Chart—and How Can It Help Predict Your Child's Height?

Your child's pediatrician should track their long-term growth during regular checkups to make sure they're following a similar growth curve to their peers. To see which percentile your child falls into, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

As for how to predict your child's height, there is no way of knowing how tall they'll be. There are several formulas, however, which can give you an estimate, including the one listed below.

  • Add the height of the biological parents together (in inches or centimeters).
  • Add five inches (13 centimeters) for boys. Subtract five inches (13 centimeters) for girls.
  • Divide by two.

What Are Late Growth Spurts, and Why Do They Matter?

Another way to predict a child's adult height—and one which is, arguably, the most accurate—is to wait until they've started puberty, then compare their height and age to those mapped on a growth chart, and follow the corresponding curve out. Using the CDC's girls growth chart, for example, a 10-year-old girl who stands 54 inches tall (4'6") is in the 50th percentile and should reach a height just over 5'4" by the time she's 18.

Don't worry if your child falls below the 50th percentile on a growth curve chart. As long as they're "following that line at a steady rate," they are developing normally, says Dr. Kono.

Puberty, constitutional growth delays, and "catching up"

If your child does appear to be falling off of the growth curve and is not catching up with their peers, they could be experiencing constitutional growth delay (the clinical term for a "late bloomer") or something could be medically wrong, like a growth hormone deficiency. Pediatricians can do a bone age X-ray in office to determine if your kid is on track to reach their average adult height. "If I get an X-ray of a 14-year-old boy and his bones look like those of a 12 year old, that tells me he's still got five or six years of growth left and he won't achieve his final adult height until maybe even college age," says Dr. Kono.

"It's important to ask your pediatrician about where the child is in puberty and whether they are growing appropriately for their stage of puberty," says Dr. Antal. If you wait until they're almost finished with puberty, there's not much an endocrinologist, a physician who specializes in conditions relating to hormones, can do to help.

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