Identifying the ideal weight for a child is a challenge because of the various factors involved. A healthy weight range is a more realistic way to assess a child’s health and need to lose weight. Early identification of weight problems in children allows an early intervention to avoid more serious health complications down the road.
A child in a healthy weight range enjoys a much more active life. Alternatively, an overweight child is usually less active or downright sedentary and thus, has a higher risk for serious medical problems, such as diabetes, sleep problems, high blood pressure and asthma. A child who stays within a healthy weight range reduces her chances of developing health problems in the future.
A weight measurement obtained from a scale doesn’t give an overall picture of whether a child is at a healthy weight. A taller child with a larger frame naturally weighs more than a child at the same age, but with a very small frame and shorter height. Both children are likely at a perfectly healthy weight, even though the numbers on the scale aren’t equal. Boys and girls of the same age often vary on weight while both being healthy. Because they are still growing, age also affects the ideal weight range. The older a child gets, the more she can weigh while still being in a healthy range.
Body Mass Index
The body mass index, or BMI, offers a way to assess a child’s weight while taking into consideration other factors. The BMI calculation figures in a child’s weight, height, gender and age. Online BMI calculators like the one offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — made specifically for children — offer an easy way to figure your child’s BMI.
Percentiles help medical professionals assess a child’s BMI compared to peers and doctors use those percentiles to establish healthy ranges for children. A BMI that falls between the 5th and 85th percentile is considered a healthy weight range. The range is quite wide, making it impossible to identify one ideal weight for a child. Your child’s physician should calculate these percentiles at each well-child visit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offers growth charts that factor in a child’s age and BMI to assign a percentile. A child between the 85th and 94th percentile is considered overweight, while a child at the 95th percentile for BMI is considered obese. Anything under the 5th percentile is underweight.
If your child falls outside the healthy weight range based on her BMI, take steps toward improving the overall health of the family. A makeover of family recipes reduces the amount of calories your child consumes. Replace calorie-filled snacks with healthier options. Get the entire family moving with a walk or active game in the backyard. Singling out one child may damage her self-esteem or make her feel bad for being outside of the normal weight range.