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STAND STILL! I Need to Measure and Weigh You

written by: Genevieve Van Wyden • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 8/2/2012

You decide to measure the weight and height of your child at home. He’s certainly doing well since his last checkup, but has he grown? He won't stand still for the time you need to mark the wall or for the scale to register his weight. So just how do you get accurate measurements?

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    Tracking Your Child's Growth

    When you have a ballpark idea of your child’s height and weight, you know whether he falls within the standards your pediatrician would consider normal. When you have a healthy and active--emphasis on the word “active"--child, this is easier said than done. He doesn’t want to stand still for even 30 seconds. Life is calling, along with the swing set, slide, cars, video games, trampoline and your pets. Learn about measuring your child’s weight and height accurately.

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    Measuring Height Accurately

    Little Girl in Hat FDP Credit Louisa Stokes If you are like most parents, you wonder if your child literally measures up to other children his age. When your child is developing normally, he falls within the height and weight measures your pediatrician established shortly after birth. Measuring height and weight of a child, both at home and in the doctor’s office, allows you and your doctor to detect when your child’s growth begins to speed up or lag. Some physical disorders can manifest in weight loss or gain, as well as abnormal growth spurts or lags in height.

    Children don’t always like to be measured because this means they need to be taken away from an activity they are enjoying. Standing against a wall? Standing on a weight scale? Boring! Because of this mindset, your child may make it difficult for you to get an accurate measurement.

    Have your child take his shoes and bulky clothing off. For a girl, remove braids, hair styles or hair ornaments that would give you an inaccurate height measurement. Direct your child to stand on an uncarpeted floor and against a wall. The wall should not have a baseboard or molding.

    Tell your child to stand with his feet flat and together, with his heels against the wall. His legs should be straight with his arms at his sides; his shoulders should be level. Tell your child to look straight ahead and make sure his line of sight is parallel to the floor--he should not be gazing down at the floor or up at the ceiling. Place a book on your child’s head so it forms a right angle to the wall. Your eyes should be on the same level as the book.

    Take a pencil and mark the spot where the bottom of the book touches the wall. This is your child’s height. Place a metal measuring tape and measure from the floor to the mark you made on the wall to get your child’s height. Record his height to within the nearest 1/8th inch--or 0.1 centimeter.

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    Get On the Scale

    Your child’s appetite can vary widely from one day to the next. Some days, he seems to want to sweep through the pantry, freezer and refrigerator, wiping out your entire supply of food, and on other days you can barely get him to eat two bites of anything you set in front of him. Because of this, you may worry that he is either at risk of gaining too much weight or being underweight.

    Take your child and a digital scale--not a spring-loaded unit--into a room with a firm floor. An uncarpeted floor in the kitchen or bathroom is ideal. Have your child strip down to his underwear and remove his shoes. He can keep his socks on.

    Direct him to stand, with both feet in the center of the scale. Wait until the weight registers, then write it down. Record his weight to within the nearest decimal fraction--if he weighs 38.73 lbs., write this down as 38.75 lbs.

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    What Accurate Measurements Mean for Your Child

    Because your child is growing so quickly, it is important for you and his doctor to know where he falls on the height and weight growth charts. Measuring height and weight of a child in between well-child visits enables you to know more quickly when something might not be right. If, for instance, your child suddenly begins to gain or lose too much weight, you can call the doctor and get your child in for a comprehensive physical examination with any tests your doctor may deem necessary.

    In the same way, if your child’s growth upward begins to slow markedly or speed up too quickly, this can signal the development of a serious illness or other disorder. Just as with an abnormal weight gain, when you realize your child’s growth pattern has become abnormal, you can call the doctor and get an appointment. When he sees your child and runs tests, he may be able to figure out what conditions might be causing your child’s development to become abnormal.

References

  • Image credit: Little Girl in Hat FDP Credit Louisa Stokes http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1722
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/childrens_bmi/measuring_children.html

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