Growth spurts in toddlers and kids: Ages, signs, and what to know

Growth spurts are short periods of rapid growth in which your child undergoes physical changes. It's normal for kids to both grow taller and gain weight during growth spurts.

A father measuring the height of a child
Photo credit: / GoodLifeStudio

Remember when your child was a baby and you swore they grew overnight? Or that summer when your toddler suddenly looked more like a kid than a baby?

You're not imagining it: Growth is seldom steady and tends to happen in spurts. These growth spurts are most obvious in the first year of life and around puberty, both times when a tremendous amount of growth takes place in a short time.

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Growth spurts can happen at other times, too, though they're usually less noticeable. Here's what to know.

What is a growth spurt?

A growth spurt is a short period of rapid growth in which your child will get taller and gain weight. Growth spurts are a normal part of child development and will happen throughout your child's life until they reach physical maturity – usually between 16 and 20 for girls and 17 and 20 for boys.

While all children experience growth spurts, they won't all grow in exactly the same way or reach new physical milestones at the same time. However, there are some general guidelines when it comes to growth.

Growth spurt ages

The biggest growth spurt happens when your child is a baby – many babies triple their birth weight by their first birthday!

Children typically reach half of their adult height by the time they're 2 years old.

The second most notable growth spurt comes during puberty – between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls and 9 and 14 for boys. But you can of course still expect a great deal of growth and development between preschool and puberty.

In early childhood, physical growth is slow and steady, though you may still see small periods when your child seems to sprout up overnight. In general, you can expect your child to grow about two and a half inches a year from age 2 until adolescence.

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How long do growth spurts last?

It varies, but in general you can expect a growth spurt to last anywhere from two to seven days. For babies, growth spurts tend to be shorter, lasting up to about three days. For adolescents, growth spurts last about a week.

Typically, you won't notice your child's growth spurt until after it's already happened. For example, your child pulls on the same pants they wore last week, only suddenly they ride several inches above their ankle. Or they complain that the soccer shoes they wore to practice just a few days earlier now pinch their feet.

Signs of a growth spurt

As your child goes through the physical changes of a growth spurt, you may also notice changes in their mood, sleep, and appetite.

Signs of a growth spurt in toddlers and children include:

  • Increased hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty regulating emotions
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If you think your kid is in the midst of a growth spurt, make sure they're getting plenty of nutritious snacks and meals, as well as plenty of rest. And be prepared to give them a little more TLC. Fussiness and emotional outbursts aren't out of the ordinary during a growth spurt, so extra cuddles and patience may be in order.

Wondering whether "growing pains" are part of growth spurts? It turns out these dull aches in the legs, especially around the calves, knees, and front of the thighs are probably misnamed. The pain is real, but no medical evidence links them to growing muscles or bones. Instead, some experts attribute this pain to increased physical activity. (Growing pains often strike after a particularly active day.)

Growing pains typically occur at night and are common in the elementary years, beginning around age 3 and peaking around ages 8 to 12 (not long before the first changes of puberty). This pain usually goes away with rest.

The pain may wake your child up in the middle of the night. To help treat it, use warm compresses, massage, and gentle stretching. You may also be able to help relieve the pain by encouraging your child to try other sports or types of play that will use different muscles.

When to talk to a doctor

Variation in height and weight is perfectly normal, so if your child is a little bigger or smaller than their peers, it's likely nothing to worry about. It's also normal for a kid to pack on a few pounds but not gain any height – or vice versa – during a growth spurt.

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If you're concerned your child isn't growing at a healthy pace, talk to their pediatrician at your kid's next checkup. The doctor will use a growth chart to compare your child's height and weight to the average. The doctor will also take family history into account – for example, a kid with short parents is also likely to be on the shorter side.

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BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

Nemours Foundation. 2022. Your Child's Growth. a new window [Accessed May 2023]

Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Growth Spurts and Baby Growth Spurts. a new window [Accessed May 2023]

Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Growing Pains. a new window [Accessed May 2023]

Nemours Foundation. 2021. Growing Pains. a new window [Accessed May 2023]

Nemours Foundation. 2019. Growth and Your 1- to 2-Year Old. a new window [Accessed May 2023]

Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Puberty. a new window [Accessed May 2023]

Mayo Clinic. 2023. How much should I expect my baby to grow in the first year? a new window [Accessed May 2023]

Erin Heger

Erin Heger is a freelance journalist who writes about health, parenting, and social issues. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, HuffPost, Business Insider, and Rewire News Group. Born and raised in Kansas, she lives just outside Kansas City with her husband and three kids.