WHEN MY CHILD was a toddler, she loved to run—be it across the living room, around the apartment or in the parks. Friends, family and strangers often expressed their displeasure that I did not stop her. They worried that her legs would ache from too much running. But I found it hard to believe that a toddler’s legs could actually tire.
So, do toddlers tire easy? Not really.
Do they experience growth pains in their bones? Yes.
Do the growth pains lead to sudden bursts of crying while running or late at night in bed? Yes, commonly so.
It is true that toddlers seem full of explosive energy. Particularly between age three and five, they do love to run, primarily to explore their surroundings and to test their speed and strength. Exertion beyond capability will, however, cause strain and leg ache, which a child of this age might not be able to foresee. When the pain sets in, it can lead to tantrums and/or uncontrollable bouts of crying.
During the first five years of a baby’s life, the spine (bone and consequently nerve endings, too) grows rapidly. Between two and five years, the height increases till 20cm! So, until five years or more, children can experience what is known commonly as growth pains. This is because the bones are growing at a tremendous rate and the muscles also get stretched.
Additionally, if your child complains of leg pain at night or before a nap, it could also be a case of calcium or vitamin D deficiency. If the complaints are persistent and accompanied with bouts of crying, have them evaluated by a paediatrician.
A parent has to judge what amount of outdoor play is reasonable for one’s child. Children at this age are prone to strain themselves during playtime and suffer later. Make sure you break your child’s play or running sessions before she tires herself out and gets cranky from exhaustion and growth pains.
Giving a warm bath before bedtime and some quick massage along the calves will bring relief to the child. Using heat pads over the legs will also ease pain. If your child has flat foot, then shoe inserts will make a major difference. Growth pains in the calves typically subside or become manageable by 10 to 12 years of age.
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