The healthy weight of your child depends on many factors. Although weight gain is a normal part of your child’s development, knowing how your 5-year old compares with other children of his age can help you to understand his health status. With the dramatic increase in childhood obesity, be sure to encourage your child to maintain a healthy weight and understand the importance of healthy habits.
Body Mass Index
The most common way to calculate weight based on age in your child is through the body mass index or BMI. Body mass index is used to determine if your child is at a healthy weight for his height. To calculate BMI, divide the weight of your child in pounds by his height in inches. Divide that number by the height in inches again and multiply that quantity by 703.
The Centers for Disease Control lists growth charts for BMI according to your child’s age. Use the BMI-for-age growth charts for children aged 2 to 19. This percentile ranking will tell you how your child compares to other children of his age in the United States. Physicians consider a healthy percentile between the 5th percentile but less than the 85th percentile. If a child is less than the 5th percentile, she is considered underweight. Ranges from the 85th to 95th percentile is considered overweight with over the 95th percentile obese.
In the case that your child does not fall between the healthy range for his weight, there are still factors to consider. For example, genetics, gender, hormones, physical activity, health problems, nutrition, and environment are factors that vary among all children and inevitably influence their rate of growth. Also consider the activity level of your child. For instance, a very athletic child may have more muscle mass and therefore a higher BMI, despite a lack of body fat. Likewise, a very active child may have a low BMI for his age yet still be healthy. Therefore, be sure to use BMI in conjunction with other assessments; skin-fold thickness measurements, evaluations of diet, physical activity and family history.
Monitor your child for significant drifting or weight fluctuations over time. If your child gains or loses weight too fast, it may be signs of a potential problem. Particular things such as emotional problems, stress, depression, or even a traumatic event can strongly influence your child and his weight. Another reason for rapid weigh loss may be malnutrition -- one of the most common causes of growth problems, according to the Children's Hospital of Boston. If you notice weight fluctuations in your child, seek out the help of your doctor, child psychologist, or dietitian to determine your child’s weight issues.
Helping your child maintain his weight is a decision that will benefit him throughout his childhood. In order for him to be successful, guide him with a healthy diet, emotional support, and plenty of play time and physical activity. Make sure to provide nutritious foods and snacks at regularly scheduled times. Teach him the importance of only eating until they are satisfied to prevent the habit of overeating. In addition, try to make exercise a daily habit for them by participating in at least 60 minutes of exercise each day as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010. Most importantly, be a good example for your child to follow and watch him succeed as he grows.
- American Heart Association: Overweight in Children
- USDA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Kids Health: Growth Charts
- CDC: About BMI for Children and Teens
- National Network for Child Care: A Parent's Guide to Children's Weight
- Baylor College of Medicine: Children's BMI-percentile-for-age Calculator