Many adults have fond memories of their childhood homes; the bedrooms, backyards, and common rooms of youth hold many memories of simple, carefree times.
And while the walls were plastered with pictures of special moments (birthday parties, sporting events, family vacations, etc.), nearly every home also had one wall or doorframe festooned with tick-marks bearing names and ages.
These growth charts tracked you and your siblings as you advanced from your first steps to your first day of school, to your first date, to that long-awaited trip to college.
But where did this tradition come from?
Why do parents continue to keep these growth charts and more importantly, why should they continue to do so?
First of all, it is important to know that there is more than one type of growth chart.
The one that most parents keep on their own at home is generally for sentimental, rather than scientific, purposes and its value is mainly personal.
While many parents are prone to putting pencil marks (or carving notches) on a door frame, it seems like people just don’t retain family homes as long as they used to, for one reason or another.
And you’re unlikely to take a door frame with you when you leave a home, meaning the memory is lost (although you could take a photo and frame it).
But there are plenty of companies that now sell a variety of growth charts made from the printed canvas so that you can simply roll them up and take them to the next house.
If you’re on the lookout for a great selection, do a search on Etsy – you’ll be amazed by how many cool ideas some of these creative, independent artisans come up with (many are extremely affordable and even customizable).
However, there is a second type of growth chart, and that is the one that doctors and scientists use to follow patterns.
For example, your pediatrician likely has a growth chart that shows averages and percentiles.
Each time your kids go in for an appointment they are measured, weighed and compared to averages for their age to make sure that their growth and development are on track.
While there may be no cause for alarm if your child is outside the prescribed range for “normal” children, such a disparity could lead your doctor to look into potential reasons for the anomaly, such as hormonal or nutrient deficiencies, digestive disorders, or even diseases like Down or Turner syndrome (although some of these may be apparent by other indicators).
This is why it’s important to take infants and toddlers in for regular doctor visits (even if you have to get temporary health insurance quotes to make this a viable option on your budget).
In many cases, the averages are taken from various segments of the population.
They may be random samples meant to set national standards, or they could be gleaned from certain geographic regions, economic ranges, or even particular families that are determined to offer the healthiest possible scenario for growth (proper nutrition, lack of toxins like cigarette smoke in the home environment, and so on).
And organizations like the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the WHO (World Health Organization) compile charts based on their own criteria for gathering data (such as children who are breastfed versus those that are raised on formula, for example).
All can help you to determine if your kids are growing at an average rate and whether they might need further testing to determine the cause for stunted or accelerated growth.