Growth and Your 2- to 3-Year-Old

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Parents

During the third year of life, most toddlers gain about 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) and grow about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 centimeters).

They're extremely active and mobile, and learning in very physical ways. They're running around and exploring their world, and picking up new skills, like kicking a ball and riding a tricycle.

Your toddler's appetite may fluctuate greatly now, which is common. It is also common for some toddlers to get stuck on one food. Food "jags" usually don't last long if you don't accommodate them. To build a foundation of healthy eating habits, keep serving a variety of nutritious foods and allow your child to decide what and how much to eat from the healthy foods you offer.

Although kids come in all shapes and sizes, a healthy child should continue to grow at a regular pace. The doctor will measure and weigh your child at routine checkups and plot the results on a growth chart. This allow the doctor to track your child's growth over time and spot trends that need attention.

Helping Kids Grow

Normal growth — supported by good nutrition, adequate sleep, and regular exercise — is one of the best overall indicators of a child's good health. But your child's growth pattern is largely determined by genetics. Pushing kids to eat extra food or greater than recommended amounts of vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients will not increase their height.

Malnutrition severe enough to affect growth rate is uncommon today in the United States and other developed countries unless a child has an associated chronic illness or disorder.

At the Doctor's Office

Despite data collected for growth charts, "normal" heights and weights are difficult to define. Shorter parents, for instance, tend to have shorter kids, whereas taller parents tend to have taller kids.

Although you may worry if your child isn't as tall as his or her peers or weighs more, the more important question is whether your child is continuing to grow at a normal rate. If, for instance, your child's growth rate had been normal but has recently slowed, the doctor may track your child's measurements over a few months to see whether this is a possible health problem or just a variation of normal.

Most kids who are growing at or below the 5th percentile line on the growth chart are usually following one of these two normal variant growth patterns:

  1. Familial (genetic) short stature. These kids have inherited genes for short stature from their parents. Usually one or both parents, and often other relatives, are short. Although they are shorter than average, they grow at a normal rate and are otherwise healthy, showing no symptoms of medical problems that can affect growth. They generally enter puberty at an average age and reach a final adult height similar to that of their parents. In general, no treatment is recommended or known to be effective in significantly increasing their final adult height.

  2. Constitutional growth delay (delayed puberty). Although they are usually of average size in early infancy, these kids undergo a period of slower-than-average growth between 6 months and 2 years of age, causing them to fall to the 5th percentile or lower on the growth chart. After about age 2 or 3 years, kids with constitutional growth delay will grow at a normal childhood rate until they reach puberty and undergo a growth spurt at a later age than most other teens. Because they start puberty later, they will continue to grow after most teens have stopped, thus "catching up" to their peers in final adult height. Usually, there's a family history of this kind of growth pattern, and in general, there's no need for treatment.

If your child is growing too slowly, your doctor might order tests to determine whether this is related to a medical or genetic condition that would interfere with growth.

Be sure to discuss any concerns you have about your child's growth or development with your doctor.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: September 2011



Related Resources

OrganizationAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
OrganizationHuman Growth Foundation The Human Growth Foundation is a resource for kids and teens with growth problems.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.


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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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