HealthSheets™


Pediatric Skeletal Growth

Cross section of top part of bone showing epiphysis, growth plate, metaphysis, and diaphysis (shaft).
A close-up of the end of a long bone.

A skeleton in progress

  • In infants, the bones in the head are not fused together. This allows the head to be flexible so it can pass through the birth canal during childbirth. The bones in the skull don’t fully fuse until ages 1 to 2.

  • Children have more cartilage (a dense, elastic type of tissue) in their joints and other bony structures (such as the ribs). This allows the bones to continue to develop and grow as the child grows. This extra cartilage develops into bone over time. By about age 16, all extra cartilage has matured into bone.

  • Children have growth plates in each long bone. A growth plate is an area of soft bone at each end of the long bones. Growth plates allow the bone to grow as the child grows. The growth plates fuse (harden) by the time a child is 14 to 18 years old. 

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