As a concerned parent, it is comforting to be able to occasionally take a look at what is "normal" or "average" when it comes to child development, even if the experts think that parents are better off not being concerned about what normal is. However, wanting to know what is best for our children is the most important parenting skill there is.
Truthfully, the experts do have a point. Obsessing about what is normal or average or "right" when it comes to baby development or toddler development isn’t always a good thing. Every child is different, and every baby is different in how fast they grow and put on weight, just as every toddler is different when it comes to how fast they walk or run, or even how big they are. However, withholding information from concerned parents is never a good idea. When people lack the information they want, they tend to infer their own data, and when it is worried parents we are talking about, we tend to assume the worst. It certainly wouldn’t send most parents into a frightful state of paranoia if we got a good look at the official height-weight charts for toddlers and the official height and weight charts for babies.
Unfortunately, the Internet doesn’t offer too much help for a curious parent who wonders if their 3-year old is taller than average, shorter than average, or bigger than average overall. Too many search engine results point to preachy articles about obesity in young children and toddlers. Most parents can eyeball their toddler or small child and have a gut feel about whether or not they are starting to get "big boned." But, for parents wondering if little Sally is shorter than other 4-year olds, or if it just so happens that her handful of friend are all just taller than average, such articles are no help.
Trying to limit a search to reputable sources only makes it worse, because these are the doctors, counselors, and other experts who like to hold that information about whether or not a kid is average weight or average height close to their vest. Instead, they hand out patronizing answers like, "perfectly normal" and then tell us "I wouldn’t worry about it." Like that helps.
So, it was with some excitement that I found the official U.S. government height and weight charts. These are the height-weight percentile charts with the graphs of curving lines that show exactly where your child falls with regard to how tall or short they are relative to their peers in the United States. The reason they are so hard to find is that they aren’t called what you think they are. They aren’t listed on a government webpage under height-and-weight charts or height-weight graphs, but are rather listed as Clinical Growth Charts, and they are on the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website of all places.
Is My Baby Tall Short or Average? Is My Toddler Taller or Shorter than Average?
Of course, there is, in fact, no reason to lose even one second of sleep over the fact that a toddler or baby is shorter or taller than average. The growth rates change dramatically, and a kid who is tall today can end up average or short tomorrow. However, more facts and truthful parenting information is always a good thing to have. If nothing else, it can get you to stop worrying, especially if it turns out your little one is just a tiny bit taller or shorter than average.
Ironically, at these younger ages, the percentiles for height and weight exaggerate the actual differences between the size of toddlers. That is because when dealing with a 36" inch tall child, a full 10% difference in height is just three and a half inches. As relative percentiles to their peers, the numbers are even smaller.
For example, in 2-year old boys, the difference between 50th percentile, and 95th percentile is just 2 inches. In other words, the difference between perfectly average and taller than 95% of all little boys who are two, is just a two tiny little inches. That leaves a lot of room in between for everyone who is "a little taller" than average.