From UBC Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D Bredin
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Growth spurts are abrupt increases in height that can occur in children at various stages in their childhood (Karlberg, 1990). Although the majority of growth spurts take place during puberty, the onset of them occurs during childhood (Karlberg, 1990). The number of growth spurts a child experiences depends on the height of the parents. Therefore, measuring the parents’ height can act as a height predictor for the child for when they reach full height maturation (Rogol et al., 2000). Genetics, gender, as well as ethnicity play a role in the height of an individual, and can affect their fundamental motor skills during periods of development (Rogol et al., 2000). Moreover, children may experience episodes of growing pains that can possibly coincide during periods of growth spurts (Naish and Apley,. 1950). Although research has been progressed over the years, much knowledge is still needed to further our understanding of the underlying factors that occur during a growth spurt and how it affects a child’s fundamental motor skills development.


According to the Oxford Dictionaries (2014), growth is described as the “process of increasing in size”, and spurt is defined as a “move with a sudden burst of speed”. Incorporating these two words together to form ‘growth spurt’ can be described as the sudden increase in height of an individual during their childhood.

Childhood Stages

Infancy (0-12 months)

During infancy, the most important factor that can affect a child’s growth is the amount of sleep a child receives during its first year of birth (WebMD, 2011). Since the height growth of a child only occurs during sleep, having long sleep sessions is beneficial for the infant (WebMD, 2011). All children going through a growth spurt will tend to sleep more than usual.

Toddler (12 months to 3 years)

Toddlers exhibit height growth in trends that correlate to their ethnicity (Rogol, et al., 2000). For example, European children have a greater likelihood to experience more growth spurts than children from an Asian background because the majority of European adults are taller than Asian adults.

Children (3 to 12 years)

No other specific and consistent findings have been found on growth spurts that occur for children in the preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school age. Although all children will grow taller, the timing of growth spurts will vary in each individual. Children who have delayed growth spurts are called ‘late bloomers’ (Dowshen, 2014).

Possible Causes


Genetics play a major factor in the height of an individual and the amount of growth spurts a child may have. For example, children who have tall parents generally have more growth spurts than children with shorter parents (Rogol et al., 2000).


Ethnicity is another large factor that predetermines a child’s height in later years. At birth, infants from an African descent are smaller than infants from a European descent. But within their first few years after birth, African children’s linear growth spurts are generally greater than that of European children (Rogol et al., 2000). This correlates to the height difference between African and European male and female adults; African ethnic adults are generally taller than European ethnic adults (Rogol et al., 2000).


The majority of females are taller than males between the ages of 0-12 years. Girls also generally grow faster than boys until age 8 because females begin their growth spurts at a younger age than males (Rogol et al., 2000). Although growth spurts can occur in boys and girls at any time during childhood, there is usually a growth spurt before the child enters puberty. That being said, girls can have a growth spurt at some point between the ages of 10 to 14 years of age, while boys can have their growth spurts until the age of 16 (Dowshen, 2014). Furthermore, children of both genders who are physically active had a strong positive relationship to having mature fundamental motor skills (Holfelder & Schott., 2014).

Growing Pains


  • Muscular Fatigue theory

In the 1800s, there was no such thing as ‘growing pains’. In 1894, the muscular fatigue theory was born. During this time, conclusions were presented based on the observations of Bennie (Evans, 2008). This theory stated that pains in the legs were due to the accumulation of waste products in the legs. This notion is still around today. The parents of children of who complain of leg pains believe and associate it to physical activity (Evans, 2008).

  • Anatomical theory

The term ‘growth pains’ first emerged in the 1950s. Although little was known about growth pains and why they occur, the anatomical theory was created (Evans, 2008). Doctors presumed that growth spurts were the result of orthopedic defects that affected balance. But after some research, doctors precluded that the anatomical theory was incorrect, and that growth pains were not the result of orthopedic defects (Evans, 2008).

  • Psychological theory

In 1951, the notion that a child’s psychological state can be a determinant for growth pain was created, and still exists today (Evans, 2008). Research has shown that children with negative moods correlate with a greater chance of growth pains (Evans, 2008). The gender of the child has also been studied to determine if sex plays a factor in growing pains (Evans, 2008). Studies have concluded that females have been seen as more susceptible to growing pains. This can be due to the reason that females having a lower pain tolerance than males (Uziel and Hashkes, 2007). Further studies over the past centennial have looked at nutrition, flatfeet, physical activity, and the quality of life of the child that can have a factor on growth pains (Evans, 2008). But still today, little is known on the reasons behind why growth pains occur (Evans, 2008).


Not every child will experience growing pains, but approximately 37 percent of children between the ages of 4 to 6 years of age will experience growing pains at least once (Evans, 2008. They can last from a few months up to a few years before they outgrow it (Evans, 2008). Shorter children will tend not to have many growth spurts, and also are less likely to experience growing pain (Rogol et al., 2000).


Limb pains, leg pains, and leg aches are words used to describe growing pains (Evans, 2008). This is because children may complain of muscle cramps or aches that occur mostly in the limbs. Specifically, pain may be experienced in the trunk, or bilaterally in the thigh, and anterior and posterior compartments of the lower leg (WebMD, 2015). Pain can also happen during the afternoon, evening, and when the child is sleeping (Cleveland Clinic, 2010). It is not experienced in the morning (Cleveland Clinic, 2010). Moreover, pain can be predicted in a child because it usually occurs subsequently to periodic bouts of physical activity (Evans, 2008). This can discourage children from continuing sports and other forms of physical activity. Furthermore, it can lower the chances of them reaching maturation of fundamental motor skills, and decreases the chance that they will continue sports at a later age (Valentini & Rudisill., 2004).

Growing pains in children are not out of the ordinary, with the majority of them occurring between the ages of 8 to 12 years of age (Evans, 2008). This coincides around the time when both girls and boys are experiencing their last growth spurt before they hit puberty (Naish and Apley, 1950). Families may see their child fatigue faster, have more school absences, and decrease in physical activity during periods of growing pains (Uziel & Hashkes, 2007).


The causes of growing pains are still unknown. So far, no single diagnostic test can be used to diagnosis a patient with growing pains (Evans, 2008).

Effects of Growing Pains on Fundamental Motor Skills

All children are encouraged to partake in active movement and physical activity because many researches has concluded that childhood physical activity leads to many health benefits, an increased likelihood of physical activity as an adult, and proficiency in fundamental motor skills (Valentini & Rudisill., 2004). However, there is one childhood stage that cannot partake in physical activity to develop fundamental motor skills; infants. There are certain things parents can do to limit restriction to movement, and to encourage their infant to move, explore, and play. The practice of picking up objects and having good object control is a predictor of whether the infant will develop mature fundamental motor skills (Holfelder & Schott., 2014). This can later lead to proficiency in throwing technique for example.

Since the majority of growing pain episodes occur between 8 to 12 years of age, and coincide with growth spurts, the role of elementary school teachers are of extreme importance. They are the individuals who have the power and opportunity to connect with each child and make physical education activity classes fun and purposeful to the development of fundamental motor skills. Their observations and hard work can pave the road for a child to live an active lifestyle, or a future career in the success of sport, because the child gained proficient fundamental motor skills during their childhood (Valentini & Rudisill., 2004). Whereas children who lose out on the opportunity to gain proficient gross motor skills result in a tendency to refrain from physical activity as adults (Capio et al., 2014)

The window of opportunity for children to partake in physical activity is of greatest concern when the child is experiencing pain, and feels that physical activity will only cause more pain and stress. This can be the case for children who experience growing pains, such that their lower limbs are affected, and fatigue may discourage the child from even trying physical activity (Valentini & Rudisill., 2004).. It is the role of the elementary school teachers to notice these behaviours, and to find alternative methods of physical activity so that the child can be included and encouraged to partake (Valentini & Rudisill., 2004).


Much is still unknown on how to deal with growing pains. Researches over the past years have looked at medication, X-rays, blood samples, nutrition, and topical cream rubs and orthotics to find a cure for this pain (Evans, 2008). At least 19% of children who experience growing pains take X-rays (Uziel & Hashkes, 2007). Stretching and massaging the body parts that are experiencing muscle pains may help reduce the pain, although this is not for certain(Evans, 2008). But still, little to no conclusions has been made that clearly states that any of these options benefit individuals with growing pains (Evans, 2008). So far, no side effects have been found that can affect the child’s growth (Evans, 2008). Many children simply outgrow growing pains as they enter puberty (Uziel & Hashkes, 2007).


Capio, C., Sit, C., Eguia, K., Abernethy, B., Masters, R. (2014). Fundamental movement skills training to promote physical activity in children with and without disability: A pilot study. Journal of Sport and Health Science , 1-9. doi:10.1016/j.jshs.2014.08.001

Cleveland Clinic. (2010). Growing Pains. Retrieved from

Evans, Angela. (2008). Growing pains: contemporary knowledge and recommended practice. Journal of Foot and Ankle Research , 4, 1-5. Retrieved from

HealthlinkBC. (2014). Growth and Development, Ages 11 to 14 Years. Retrieved from

Holfelder, B., & Schott, N. (2014). Relationship of fundamental movement skills and physical activity in children and adolescents: A systematic review. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 15, 382-391. Retrieved from

Karlberg, J. (1990). The Infancy-Childhood Growth Spurt. National Center for Biotechnology Information, 367, 111-118. Retrieved from

KidsHealth. (2013). Your Child’s Growth. Retrieved from

Naish, J., & Apley, J. (1951). ‘Growing Pains’: A Clinical Study of Non-Arthritic Limb Pains in Children. Archives of Disease in Childhood , 126, 134–140. Retrieved from

Oxford Dictionaries. (2014). Growth. Retrieved from

Oxford Dictionaries. (2014). Spurt. Retrieved from

Rogol, A., Clark, P., Roemmich, J. (2000). Growth and pubertal development in children and adolescents: effects of diet and physical activity. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , 2, 521s-528s. Retrieved from

Uziel, Y., & Hashkes, P. J. (2007). Growing pains in children. Pediatric Rheumatic Online Journal , 5, 1-4. doi:10.1186/1546-0096-5-5

Valentini, N., & Rudisill, M. (2004). An Inclusive Mastery Climate Intervention and the Motor Skill Development of Children With and Without Disabilities. Human Kinetics , 21, 330-347. Retrieved from

WebMD. (2011). Infant Growth Spurts Tied to More Sleep. Retrieved from from

WebMD. (2015). Growing Pains in Children: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment. Retrieved from