Healthy Growth and Development - Youth

Parents should provide the guidance and knowledge their children need to become happy, responsible adults. However, for many reasons they may shy away from talking about puberty with them.

To learn more about puberty and the roles of parents and schools, visit our  Puberty and Sexual Health page.

Physical growth

A child's growth depends on:

  • Family (parents' height and weight, ethnic and cultural background)
  • Environment
  • Nutrition

Children need to eat a variety of healthy foods and to be physically active to grow properly. For more information, check out our Youth Nutrition page.

Children grow fastest in their first year of life. During the preschool and early school years, growth is more gradual. And while every child grows at a rate that is normal for them, generally this is what you can expect of ages 10 to 14:

  • The adolescent growth spurt often starts at this time. However, some children do not start to grow taller until they are at least 15 or 16 years old.
  • Girls generally have a growth spurt and mature earlier than boys. They tend to be taller than boys at this age, and tend to add more body fat.
  • Boys tend to add more muscle tissue during these years.

Note: Children beginning puberty may feel uncomfortable about changes in their body size and shape. Reassure your child that such changes are a normal part of puberty.

How do I know if my child is growing normally?

  • Measure your child's height and weight each year.
  • Plot the measurements on a growth chart to see your child's growth pattern.
  • The growth pattern usually changes when your child starts puberty.
  • Your health-care provider can help you decide if you need to be concerned about your child's growth. Many factors influence your child's growth and need to be considered, such as family background, how well your child eats and his or her level of physical activity.

Note: Growth over time is more important than a single measurement.

Adolescent growth spurt

  • Usually associated with the beginning of puberty.
  • Marked by changes in body size, shape and the amount of muscle and fat.
  • A time when a child grows much faster than he has been growing.
  • Girls usually start a growth spurt between 11 and 14 years of age.
  • Boys' growth spurt usually takes place between 13 and 16 years of age. It is faster and lasts longer than for girls.
  • A growth spurt usually lasts one to three years, depending on the child.
  • "Growing pains" are common because of the rapid growth of bones and muscles.

Note: It is more important that your child follows a normal growth pattern for them than to be at a certain place on the growth chart compared to other children.

Growth charts

If you have any questions about your child's growth, check the information on the Growth Charts page.