Your child’s endocrine system contains hormone-producing glands that help maintain growth and development, puberty, energy level and mood. Endocrine disorders in children are caused by too many or too few hormones circulating throughout the body. In order for your child’s body to function, everything needs to be working in harmony — that is, the glands need to secrete just the right amount of hormones throughout the blood stream.
Glands in the Endocrine System
The main glands of the endocrine system include:
Other glands that contain endocrine tissue and secrete hormones include:
The endocrine system and the nervous system work closely together. The brain sends messages and receives feedback through a “switchboard” called the hypothalamus (the part of the brain that controls the endocrine system). When this system isn’t working properly, hormone and growth problems can occur.
Kids at this age are still very physical, but they learn in a more focused and less hectic way than when they were younger. These kids typically gain about 4-5 pounds (2 kilograms) and grow about 2-3 inches (5 to 8 centimeters) per year. An average 4-year-old weighs about 40 pounds and is about 40 inches tall.
Preschoolers are still developing and refining their gross motor skills (using their arms and legs to move and play), as well as their fine motor skills (working on arts and crafts and puzzles). By this age, kids can usually hop on one foot and are learning to skip.
Play becomes increasingly imaginative and is an important part of kids' growth and development now. So it's important to make sure they have time for creative play — alone and with friends — whether that means drawing pictures, playing house, or acting a part.
Although kids come in all shapes and sizes, a healthy child should continue to grow at a regular pace. To monitor physical development, the doctor will weigh and measure your child at regular checkups, then plot the results on a standard growth chart to follow over time and compare with that of other kids the same age and gender.
Helping Your Child Grow
Normal growth — aided by good nutrition, plenty of sleep, and regular exercise — is one of the best overall indicators of a child's good health. But your child's growth pattern is largely determined by genetics. Pushing kids to eat extra food or more than the recommended amounts of vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients will not make them taller. And eating too much may lead to excessive weight gain.
Preschoolers can be picky eaters, but it's important to continue to offer a variety of foods. In addition to good nutrition, preschoolers should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Kids at this age are naturally active, so encourage that activity and provide a safe environment for exploration.
At the Doctor's Office
There is a wide range of "normal" heights and weights. Shorter parents, for instance, tend to have shorter kids, whereas taller parents tend to have taller kids.
Although you may worry if your child isn't as tall as his or her peers, the more important question is whether your child is continuing to grow at a normal rate. If, for instance, your child's growth rate had been normal but has recently slowed, the doctor may track your child's measurements over a few months to see whether this is a possible health problem or just a variation of normal.
You may be concerned that your child is too small. Most kids who are very short — at or below the 5th percentile on the growth chart — are usually following one of two normal variant growth patterns:
The first is familial (genetic) short stature, in which kids have inherited genes for short stature but will grow at a normal rate, enter puberty at an average age, and reach a final adult height similar to that of their parents.
The second is constitutional growth delay, in which kids grow at a normal rate but are smaller than their peers, enter puberty later, and continue growing after their peers have stopped, thus usually reaching a normal adult height.
However, medical conditions like hypothyroidism also can affect a child's growth, so talk with your doctor if you have a concern.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: September 26, 2016