Taking care of a child during his growth years

Patterns of a child growth and development

There is a close relationship between physical and mental growth. A bright child usually grows faster than a dull child. He is also likely to be healthier and better adjusted to life. Physical development, in turn, determines what a child can do.He cannot, for example, play football or baseball, until his body is strong, his muscles coordinated, and his brain sufficiently developed to permit quick thinking. Physical deficiences, such as blindness and deafness, or some abnormal physical condition, such as obesity, will profoundly influence the child's whole pattern of behavior. The fat child, for example, is cut off from play with other children because he cannot move quickly. He may withdraw and develop an "I don't care" attitude, or he may retaliate against his thinner playmates by criticizing and scorning them.

Height and Weight

Children vary so greatly in rate growth that it is possible to give only a rough pattern of height and weight increases of American children today.

A baby usually doubles his birth weight at the end of four months and trebles it at the end of one year. If he weighs seven pounds at birth, he will weight approximately 14 pounds at four months and 21 pounds at when he is a year old. During the next nine or ten years, the annual increase will be from three to five pounds. At six years, the child should be approximately fives times his birth weight, or 35 pounds. At the beginning of puberty he should weigh between 55 and 65 pounds. Boys are usually heavier that girls.

The pattern for height closely parallels the pattern for weight. If a baby boy measures the usual 20 inches at birth when stretched to full length, he will measure at four months approximately 23 inches, and at one year 28 or 29 inches. From one year tu puberty, the annual increase is about three inches. This means that by six years of age the child's height will have doubled, and at 12 he will have nearly trebled his birth measure.

Body Proportions

The infant's body gradually changes. The face enlarges, as do the facial features; but at six or seven years the face is still immature. The neck grows longer so that the head no longer seems to sit on the shoulders. The shoulders broaden, as does the lower part of the trunk. The arms and legs lengthen but remain spindly until adolescence. Not until physical growth is completed in late adolescence does the body have mature proportions.

Bones and Muscles

Bones gradually harden and muscles grow stronger. Thoughout childhood, however, the bones remain so soft that they can easily become misshapen if the child develops faulty posture, carries heavy bundles, or rides another child "piggyback." The muscles also are weak. Too much strain on them will bring on fatigue, accompanied by irritability, and may even impair health.


Most babies have at least one tooth by the time they are six months old. From then until two and a half years of age, teeth come in one at a time until all 20 of the baby teeth have erupted. By the sixth birthday, one or two of the baby teeth have been replaced by permanent teeth and the four six-year molars have appeared behind the primary teeth. Children vary so widely in the time their teeth appear that no particular concern should be felt if teeth are cut late. The ruption of baby teeth is usually accompanied by salivation, loss of appetite, chewing, and irritability. Permanent teeth, except in the back of the jaws, come through with no appreciable discomfort.

Physiological Functions

Eating, sleeping, and eliminating gradually become systemized with the maturing of the nervous system and with practice. By the time a child is two years old he is usually able to bite and chew so that he can eat adult food, sleep through the night, and control elimination from the bowels. A year or two later, elimination from the bladder is usually under control also.

Sense Organs

As the eye muscles strengthen, the eyes begin to focus and give clear vision. Throughout childhood, however, the eye muscles remain weak and they can become permanently damaged by continuous use of the eyes at fixed distance. Reading with poor posture or in poor light may also be harmful. Hearing is acute during childhood but the ears are subject to temporary or permanent damage because they are so close to the nose that mucus from the nose can clog them. Smell and taste are keen. Sensations from the skin of pain, pressure, hot, and cold are likewise keen because the child's skin is thin and the sense organs are close to the surface. A scratch or blow that would seem trivial to an adult may be really painful to the child.


Childhood is a period of many diseases. The usual children's diseases. as well as colds, stomach upsets, earaches, infections, eyes and teething troubles, and orthopedic defects, should have prompt medical attention. When a child is sick, he misses school and cannot play with his friends. He is likely, therefore, to receive extra attention or pampering at home. Frequent or prolonged illness saps his strength and retards his growth. It is also likely to damage his personality and affect his adjustments to people even after the illness is over. Good health enables a child to develop both physically and psychlogically in a wholesome way.