Preschoolers grow about 7.5cm (3”) in height per year and can gain up to 2kg (4lbs) in weight. Growth takes place mainly in the legs and trunk for one- to three-year-olds. Your child's doctor will monitor growth based on a growth chart. The growth chart is used to track your child's growth and compare it to other children of the same age. The growth is categorised by percentiles, meaning that if your child is in the 75th percentile for height, 75 percent of children of the same age are shorter.
Doctors monitor growth rates, rather than worry too much about percentiles. From the age of two years, doctors begin screening children for obesity by using the Body Mass Index (BMI) of a child patient. From the age of one to five, the percentage of body fat in a child drops from 25 percent to 15 percent. This gives children of school going age a much leaner look than toddlers have.
Growth usually occurs in spurts. If your child is hungrier at meal times than usual, more irritable than normal, sleeps longer at night or naps more than usual, then a growth spurt is probably taking place. Your child's diet should not be altered to compensate for this short period of growth, nor should physical exercise be curtailed. Parents usually only notice the effects of a growth spurt after it is finished, i.e. clothes or shoes no longer fit after a week.
The only thing you need to do during growth spurts, is provide your child with more food if necessary at meal times and snacks. If your child experiences pain or discomfort at night, you can use massage therapy, hot water bottles or pain medication, such as ibuprofen. Growing pains are felt in the legs, but there is not enough evidence to directly connect the dull aches and pains to muscle and bone growth.