Growing Kids: Simple Things Parents Can Do to Help Them Along
Your kids are naturally growing a lot in their early years, but there are a number of factors at play that determine how well they grow and thrive, from getting enough protein to having good posture. As a parent, there are plenty of simple ways you can ensure your kids get what they need to mitigate any potential growth challenges.
Keep these ideas in mind if you’re looking for new ways to help your kids grow.
Did you know 60 to 80 percent of your child’s height is determined by genetics and the other 20 to 40 percent by outside factors, including nutrition and physical activity? If your child is below the average or expected percentile for height, there are ways to help them grow taller. Here are a few to try.
Focus on Posture
Posture affects many areas of your child’s growth, according to Murat Dalkilinç's lesson for TED-Ed. “Your posture, the way you hold your body when sitting or standing, is the foundation for every movement your body makes and can determine how well your body adapts to the stresses on it.” These stresses are everyday activities, like carrying something heavy,” explains TED-Ed.
Kids spend their days hunched over an iPad or phone and carrying a heavy backpack, both of which will affect their posture significantly. Not to mention if they have poor body awareness or live a sedentary lifestyle, suggests Root Cause Medical Clinic.
With poor posture, muscles become tight and inflexible, while others are inhibited. This leads to extra wear and tear on the spine and ligaments over time, causing back and neck pain, joint degeneration and spinal dysfunction, suggests spinal health experts. Donna NG, mom, told Today’s Parent the story of how her son’s posture led to lower back and leg pain.
If posture is an issue for your child, there are many opportunities to bring it to their attention, like when sitting at the dinner table or while taking a walk. Role model great posture, as well, by focusing on it yourself. A great way to teach yourself better posture is to fix the seat in your car. Don’t lean far back, instead keep it straight up and down, so your body learns to keep that posture as you’re walking around.
You can also combat these issues with regular stretching. “When we spend time in suboptimal positions, certain muscles in our body—such as shoulders, back, core, and neck—actually shorten,” explains Grayson Wickham, DPT, CSCS, founder of Movement Vault tells HealthLine. Suboptimal positions include bent over looking at a phone or hunched in a classroom desk, both of which your child likely does daily. Do simple stretches like toe touches and child’s pose regularly with your little ones.
Make Whey-Based Protein Shakes
Whey is an important nutrient for helping kids grow, especially when it comes to to growing tall. It’s made from cow’s milk and it’s the main type of protein you’ll find in most powders—it’s also commonly used to make baby formulas and is made up of a blend of casein and whey.
Whey is what’s left when you push liquid milk through a filter. When it’s dried, the whey forms into a protein concentrate. This high-protein concentrate, which is what Healthy Height is made with, also contains some carbohydrates (in lactose form) and fat. Whey-based protein is also a complete protein, which means that it contains all of the essential amino acids the body needs. Many other forms of protein are incomplete, including: beans, rice, nuts, and wheat.
This makes whey-based protein shakes a great way to supplement the diets of growing kids. If you’re unsure about whether your kids will be interested in a smoothie or shake, see how it went for Stacey, a mom of two:
“My husband drinks a protein shake every day and our daughters both come running as soon as they hear the blender, for “just a taste.” (They probably end up drinking at least half of his shake!) The girls were so excited when Healthy Height sent them their very own protein shakes in both chocolate and vanilla. My oldest daughter is a chocoholic just like me, and my youngest prefers all things vanilla, so it worked out perfectly!”
Kids seemingly grow stronger by the day, as their small bodies are building cells and tissues, along with stronger bones, good eyesight and much more. There are many simple ways to ensure your growing kids are getting all the help they need as they move through the normal stages of growth and development. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind.
Encourage Growth Hormone Production
Growth hormone is produced within the body and has the job of promoting growth of body tissue. As such, it’s crucial for growing kids. Those who don’t get enough tend to be small, though intelligence is normal and all body proportions are also normal, explain experts at the Human Growth Foundation.
Luckily, there are many ways to ensure your child has enough growth hormone in their body, starting with more movement. Growth hormone levels are elevated naturally within the body after exercise, making this an important part of a growing kid’s life. If your child doesn’t like sports, focus on other activities like, jump rope or playing in the backyard, running around at a nearby park, or walking regularly as a family. (If you want to learn more about exercise for kids, check out our post, The Importance of Exercise for Children’s Growth and Development.)
If your child is deficient in growth hormone, growth hormone therapy is available. Start by assessing their diet with a nutritionist or their pediatrician; protein is crucial for growth hormone production, so this may be the first and most important area of focus and an important part of why Healthy Height works for so many children.
Healthy Height Shake Mix can complement Growth Hormone Treatment or be used as an option for children who don't qualify for GH treatment. If you want to try something, before they move on to GH treatment, Healthy Height is a great place to start as well.
Eat More Foods With Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a micronutrient, and deficiency can have drastic effect on growing kids. The Vitamin A family plays an crucial role in vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation. Your child gets this important vitamin thanks to two main sources: retinol and beta-carotene.
Retinol is ready for the body to use, and can be found in eggs, fatty fish, and fortified cereals (avoid sugary cereals and those with fillers and preservatives—usually the ingredients you can’t pronounce). Beta-carotene must be converted by an enzyme in the body to the retinol form of Vitamin A in order to be absorbed, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable.
Beta-Carotene is just as important as retinol, and can be found in many orange foods, like cantaloupe, oranges, carrots, and sweet potato, along with dark leafy greens and broccoli
Growing kids are maturing in every way, including mentally. As parents, there are many ways to help them develop their intelligence, and you may even do many of these things already.
Eating A Good Breakfast
One study found that children who ate breakfast on a near-daily basis had “higher full scale, verbal, and performance IQ test scores” for a number of reasons. Not only does breakfast fuel the brain after a long night of fasting, which is crucial to their ability to learn in school, but social interaction with parents may promote brain development. These conversations can facilitate cognitive development, as kids expand their vocabulary, practice analyzing and understanding stories, and more.
Focus on well-rounded breakfast options that provide fat, protein and carbohydrates, all of which growing kids need to thrive. Try Milk and Honey Nutrition’s new Healthy Height Homemade Toaster Waffles Recipe!
Allowing Unstructured Play Time
Time to play, without any rules, guidelines or a learning end-goal, also referred to as unstructured play, is another important factor for growing kids, especially intellectually. This type of play helps them develop executive functioning (EF). A research article discusses the findings from a study with children ages 6 to 7, measuring the effectiveness of unstructured play. They explain:
“Our findings offer support for a relationship between the time children spend in less-structured and structured activities and the development of self-directed executive function. When considering our entire participant sample, children who spent more time in less-structured activities displayed better self-directed control, even after controlling for age, verbal ability, and household income. By contrast, children who spent more time in structured activities exhibited poorer self-directed EF, controlling for the same factors.”
Unstructured play may be offered at school, but can easily be facilitated at home as well. The key: you provide no directions or instruction, meaning any play your child engages in on their own will be helping them develop their executive functioning.
Growing Kids Need Their Parents
There are many factors that affect how fast and well children grow; whether they’re the right height, reading at the appropriate age level, and more. As a parent, you can help your kids grow to be as strong and smart as possible with these simple ideas that can be used regularly.