When Karla Rhinehart flipped the calendar upon July's arrival, she decided it was time to take inventory of her 9-year-old son's school wardrobe. What she discovered was that oldest son Tyson's clothes would soon belong to his 7-year-old brother, Michael.
“Nothing fit,” Rhinehart says. “Every pair of pants he had, except for a couple pair of jeans, were too tight and too short. I knew he grew a little, but I didn't think he grew that much. So off to the store we went.”
“Growing Pains” is more than a late 1980s TV show or a medical term for children's aching legs.
The pain can also be to the wallet, since kids from age 8 to their early teens can grow out of their clothes before they can wear them out. It's conceivable that pants legs rolled up at the start of the school year in August could be pushed down in May.
While individual statistics vary, KidsHealth.org suggests girls between the ages of 8 to 13 and boys between 10 to 15 can grow at an average rate of 3 inches a year – enough to send their wardrobes along to a younger sibling or hang them on a garage sale rack.
A Huffington Post story reported that back-to-school spending in 2012 averaged $688.62 for families with children in kindergarten through 12th grade, although some of that total was for accessories and electronics.
But the bulk of the spending was for new clothes – an annual necessity for elementary- and middle school-age children.
“When you're looking at the first year of life, they can grow 10 inches,” says Dr. Theresa Gutierrez of Fort Wayne Pediatrics. “ … Then they get their big pubertal jump, where they can grow 3 to 4 inches a year.
“We've had some kids jump even 5 inches in a year,” she says.
“For girls, they just don't grow slowly through the entire year, but they grow in little fits. They'll stay one height and then all of a sudden, they'll jump an inch or two. Interestingly enough, (children) seem to grow more in the spring and summer. So it does make sense when they come into the fall, all of a sudden they aren't fitting into things the way they were, even earlier in that summer.”
Jenni Burkhart, a physician assistant with the Pediatrics Center of Fort Wayne, recommends a once-a-year physical that includes charting height and weight.
“What we do is we look at their growth chart,” Burkhart says. “If a kid's about at the 90th percentile for height, we'd like for them to be about that for weight.”
Both Burkhart and Gutierrez said children, particularly in the 8-to-13 age category, can experience growing pains.
A symptom, Gutierrez says, is pain in both legs.
“If a kid tells me, 'My leg hurts right here,' and he can point with one finger to one spot and it's never anywhere else and it's just that one spot, that, to me, is a bit worrisome,” Gutierrez says.
“But if they're complaining, 'Oh, my legs,' and they're pointing from their knees to their ankles or along their thighs, or 'It's all around here,' and they give me this big, wide area and it's bilateral and there's no swelling of the joints or nothing else is going on, that's likely growing pains,” she says.
“Especially if they're in this range where they're growing pretty rapidly or they're doing these little growth spurts.”
Gutierrez also pointed out that parents may not notice a child's growth in the summer because he or she may be wearing shorts. “Shoe size, they might pick up on.”
And as the limbs grow, so do the feet, says Ross Toenges, owner of Fred Toenges Shoes and Pedorthics, 2415 Hobson Road.
“The funny thing with kids is a shoe will fit, a shoe will fit, a shoe will fit, then all of a sudden, the shoe won't fit at all,” Toenges says. “And you think, 'What happened?'
“There's the old adage that the child goes to bed and wakes up an inch taller. It's not that far from being the truth,” he says.
“They can grow very, very quickly. Every once in a while, we'll fit a child, and we'll get them back in a couple weeks and (a shoe) doesn't fit. Usually we say within two weeks, they can grow a full size.”
Toenges has personal experience with kids growing out of their shoes.
“Once my son hit preteen to teen, he actually outgrew three pairs of shoes in one summer,” he said. “He grew a size and a half within the span of 21/2 months.
“I swear, every time I turned around, I had to get him a new pair of shoes, which, luckily for me, is not quite as bad as it is for most people. It's still kind of a pain.”
And while you can't stop a child from growing, if you are going shopping for school clothes, here are some tips to help ease the pain those growth spurts cause to your wallet:
• Take an inventory of what fits and what doesn't before you go shopping. This will give you a better idea of what you need and will help you budget.
• Buy only what's needed now. Since the weather is still warm, concentrate on shirts, shorts and shoes. When it gets cooler, you can then focus on jeans and other warmer clothes, giving you a better chance to catch any changes in growth. Pay attention to school dress codes.
• Buy clothes a little larger, if possible, to accommodate potential growth.
• Seek out hand-me-downs from friends or family members who have similar-aged children.
• If your child requires school uniforms, see if your school has a “store” or clothing swap in which you can buy gently-used clothes.
• If you can sew or are creative, take those unused, worn-out or outdated clothes that still fit and make them new by adding patches or cool iron-on decals.
• Sell the old clothes to buy new ones. Take your children's clothes to resale shops such as Once Upon a Child or Plato's Closet.
• Don't forget about thrift stores. Not only are the prices lower than retail, you can often find brand-name clothes for bargain prices.