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15 Signs of the Teenage Growth Spurt

Have I hit my growth spurt yet? It can be hard to see the signs of the teenage growth spurt, but they are there during the teenage years.

While teens grow fast and their bodies change tremendously during puberty, knowing what to expect about those changes can ease the constant questions and worry.

Learn the common signs of the teen growth spurt, including typical height patterns during growth and the classic symptoms.

13 signs of the teenage growth spurt.

Defining the Teenage Growth Spurt

A growth spurt is a rapid phase of physical maturation in infants or teens, generally, where intense linear growth (height) and weight gain occurs in a short span of time. For example, in infancy, babies triple their weight by one year. In adolescence, boys and girls grow taller and put on weight in the form of muscle and fat tissue.

As a mom of four teens, I have been through the teen growth spurt a few times. With three teen daughters, I have watched and endured the physical and emotional changes. Now, I am watching my fourth, and only son, morph before my eyes.

While the symptoms are different this time around, some things are the same. From disengaging responses like “I don’t want to talk about it,” to pushing away the spontaneous embraces and morning wake-up kisses, the growth spurt is not for the weary of heart.

The world turns differently when you’re a teen and you’re growing fast. As a pediatric nutritionist, I get all kinds of questions about this topic, so I thought I’d answer a few of them here, before I dig into the the typical growth spurt signs.

You’ll learn the signs and symptoms, when the growth spurt begins and how long it lasts, and how to know it is happening.

How Long Does this Rapid Growth Last?

Puberty is a period of growth during which bodies change…a lot. The peak growth phase when all the noticeable growth happens lasts about three years or so.

Of course, everyone is different and they experience growth at different rates. Some start early and others start later.  In my experience, there are early bloomers and late growth spurts, so it can be hard to predict the individual patterns of growth.

Growth Spurt Ages for Boys and Girls

The teenage growth spurt varies by gender, with different timing of onset and rates of growth. Girls tend to experience their growth spurt earlier than boys by about two years.

Boys Growth Spurt

Many resources will tell you that peak growth in boys begins at around age 9 and stops at age 16. That’s a wide range! This accounts for the variability of when puberty starts and ends. Interestingly, some boys continue to grow in college. These boys tend to have late growth spurts.

Growth Spurts in Girls

What about girls? Generally, girls begin the pubertal growth around age 8. When do girls stop growing? Like boys, it varies with each child, but generally, girls are done growing at around age 15.

How Many Inches Do You Grow?

Typically, during that intense phase of growth, or that three years between ages 12 and 15 years for boys (generally speaking) and between ages 10 and 13 for girls, a child’s height increases by about 4 inches per year for boys and 3 to 3.5 inches per year for girls.

Even though this is an inevitable phase of growth, knowing this doesn’t make the adjustment any easier, on parents or teens.

Average Height in Boys (Based on Age)

Here’s a sample of average heights for boys during the growing years. Remember, these are simply a translation of the growth chart average:

  • Average Height for a 9 year old boy                                 52”
  • Average Height for a 10 year old boy                               54.5”
  • Average Height for a 11 year old boy                               56.5”
  • Average Height for a 12 year old boy                               58 2/3”
  • Average Height for a 13 year old boy                               61.5”
  • Average Height for a 14 year old boy                               64.5”
  • Average Height for a 15 year old boy                               ~67”
  • Average Height for a 16 year old boy                               68 1/3”
  • Average Height for a 17 year old boy                               69”
  • Average Height for a 18 year old boy                              69 1/3”

[Read more: When Do Boys Stop Growing?]

13 Signs of the Teen Growth Spurt

Average Height for Teenage Girl (Based on Age)

And here’s a sample of the average heights for girls during the teen growth phase. Again, remember, this is a growth chart translation of the 50%ile median for age:

  • Average Height for a 9 year old girl                                 52”
  • Average Height for a 10 year old girl                               54.5”
  • Average Height for a 11 year old girl                               56.5”
  • Average Height for a 12 year old girl                               59.5”
  • Average Height for a 13 year old girl                                 62”
  • Average Height for a 14 year old girl                               63.5”
  • Average Height for a 15 year old girl                               64”

Read more: When Do Girls Stop Growing?

Many physical and emotional changes happen during the teen growth spurt.

13 Tell-Tale Signs of the Teen Growth Spurt

How do you know if your teen is in a growth spurt? Or, if you’re a teen, how to tell if you’re growing?

The signs of a growth spurt make it quite obvious. Girls become hippy, leggy and buxom, while boys boast more muscles and hair. For both boys and girls, the rate of changes will be individualized, and mostly be influenced by genetic inheritance.

The following are some typical signs that your teen is in a growth spurt:

  1. High Waters: Pants are Too Short
  2. Big Feet: One of the First Signs
  3. Big Joints: Knobby Knees & Bony Hips
  4. Long Bones: Growth and Development
  5. Hair: Everywhere!
  6. Shoulders and Hips: Wider & Broader
  7. What’s that Odor?
  8. The Emotional Roller-Coaster: Emotional Changes
  9. Man-Hunger: High Appetite
  10. More Snacking: Hungry Teens
  11. Plus-size Portions
  12. Pimples: Acne and Skin Changes
  13. Voice: Changes

1. High Waters: Pants are Too Short

Back-to-school shopping and all the new clothes are exciting to add to the wardrobe. What’s decidedly not exciting is when those new clothes don’t last. They don’t fit well anymore.

Those brand new school pants quickly become “high waters.” Ill-fitting—too tight in the bum and too short, evidenced by the white sports socks peeking out between the hem and shoe. This is a sign your teen is growing taller and filling out. 

2. Big Feet: One of the First Signs

The feet are one of the first indicators of an uptick in growth. Toes may press through sneaker fabric and threaten to bust through at any moment! Gone are the days of the annual shoe purchase—you’re probably buying new shoes every four months or so when your teen is in a growth spurt.

By the way, when will someone invent an expanding shoe?

3. Big Joints: Knobby Knees & Bony Hips

Knees, elbows, shoulders, and shoulder blades look abnormally robust, painfully knobby, and may poke out of shirts and pants. The muscle and fat stores have not caught up yet.

Teens don’t usually “fill out” until they’ve gained some height. I have a height predictor tool that will help you assess where your teen is along the growth spectrum. 

4. Long Bones: Growth and Development

Gangly is the word to describe what used to be a compact child who looked proportionate. Now your teen’s bones are growing longer, which shows up in height and longer arms.

If you notice the wrists are popping out of those long sleeves, it’s a pretty good indicator that the bones are growing.

5. Hair Growth

The downy blond or light brown hair dusting the arms and legs of your child becomes darker and coarser during puberty and the teen growth spurt. Hair sprouts under the armpits, in the groin area, and boys experience facial hair.

6. Shape Changes: Shoulders Wider & Hips Broader

The frame (and body shape) of your teenager changes. Boys see a broadening of their shoulders and girls start seeing a widening of their hips.

7. What’s that Body Odor?

I don’t have to say much more about this, other than the smell of a growing teen is decidedly different. I suggest an air freshener for the bedroom, and periodic window opening to allow fresh air to circulate!

8. The Emotional Roller-Coaster: Emotional Changes

From raised voices, disagreeableness, eye rolling and ignoring your questions and requests, to loud, crazy happiness and sullen, un-engaged quietness, the teen tends to be emotionally labile.

Who knows what’s going on inside? I sure don’t.

I remember wanting to be left alone, feeling annoyed a lot, and wanting to engage my siblings and my parents on my terms– when I wanted to. I’ve experienced this emotional roller-coaster with my own teens, and each one has their “tendencies.”

A few were eye-rollers, one was a big back-talker, and another, quiet and more distant than usual. I blame these behavioral changes on all kinds of hormones and the developmental stage of the teen…it’s just part of the process.

(However, if changes are dramatic and lasting, as well as disturbing and disruptive, talk with your health care provider, as many more teens today experience high levels of anxiety and depression.)

9. Man-Hunger: High Appetite

Due to the physical changes and overall growth, your teen’s appetite will change. You may see what was once a good appetite turn voracious.

The good news is there may be more of an “eat anything” attitude, meaning your teen may be more adventurous and less picky. On the other hand, this uptick in appetite may show up as a constantly hungry kid, which will keep you on your toes. Make sure you keep a nutritious diet a priority.

10. More Snacking: Hungry Teens  

The phrase, “hollow leg,” describes the phenomenon of being hungry on the hour, almost every hour. Frequent hunger translates to frequent eating, which is a sign of growth.

If your teen is hangry (hungry and angry), you’ll want to have a strategy for handling the hangry teen so it doesn’t get out of control.

11. Plus-size Portions

Piles of food on the plate, especially food that is well-liked, is tied to the larger appetite associated with growing.

12. Pimples: Acne and Skin Changes

A side effect of hormonal changes, oily skin and pimples is a sign that the teen growth spurt (and puberty) is marching along.

13. Voice Changes

No more high-pitched screams from little boys. Instead, squeaks and a voice that isn’t quite child-like or manly. Girls have voice changes too, but they are more subtle.

14. Sexual Maturation

Boys will experience penis enlargement and girls will have breast development. 

15. Body Hair

Both genders will experience pubic hair development, or hair growth in the genital area. Males will start to grow soft hair on their faces which will turn to more coarse, adult hair. Shaving will commence! Both girls and boys will grow hair under their armpits, too.

Does Sleeping Make You Taller?

I’m always talking about quality sleep. One very important thing happens during sleep time, and that’s the rise in the level of growth hormone. Growth hormone is needed to grow. And, it’s at its highest point in the day when teens are sleeping.

While I can’t guarantee sleep will make you taller (remember, genetics are a strong predictor of how tall you will be), there’s definitely a connection between getting enough sleep and maximizing growth during the teen growth spurt.

Additional Resources

If your teen is in the throes of a growth spurt, I’ve got more tips and advice about what you can do here: 7 Ways to Support Your Teen’s Growth Spurt.

Height Predictor Tool

Lastly, I’ve created a Height Predictor Tool.

This will help you estimate your child’s ultimate height, however, genetics, lifestyle and nutrition will play a factor in the end result.

Signs of the teenage growth spurt

This article was originally published in 2012; it was updated August, 2023 to include more resources and data on height growth per year.

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