Montana Public Radio

Teaching Kids About Bones: Dr. Starbuck Explains

Jun 2, 2017

Hi. I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck, a naturopathic family physician. I’m here today with health tips about BONES.

All of you know what bones are. Think of Mr. Skeleton on Halloween. That guy that’s just a skull and a body made of bones. He clatters down the street on bone feet and waves a bony finger at you. 

Our body is a skeleton too. But our skeleton is filled with organs and muscles and blood. It’s covered by skin which keeps everything together. Our bones hold us up. If we didn’t have them, we’d just be a pile lying on the ground, unable to move.

Bones are pretty amazing. So amazing in fact that I’m going to share a few interesting tips about them with you:

Bones are living things. Even though we think of them as dry and rattley, they aren’t. They are made up of living cells.  Our bones grow longer and we get taller and taller until we are about 25 years old.  After that we don’t get taller.  But our bones keep making new cells in order to stay healthy and to fix problems, like a broken leg or a bad bone bruise.

Do you know how many bones you have in your body?  Well, it depends on how old you are.  When you are born you have about 300 bones.  As you grow, some of your bones fuse together.  By the time you’re an adult, you’ll have only 206 bones in your body.  That’s 94 less than what you started with!

Bones are 4 times stronger than concrete.  If you had a solid two inch square of healthy human bone, it could hold the weight of an elephant.  

Our very smallest bones are inside the ear. They’re called the malleus, the incus, and the stapes. Because of the way they look, they are also called the hammer, the anvil and the stirrup. These three bones are so tiny that all of them can fit on the top of one dime. But tiny though they are, these bones have a big, important job. They help us hear. 

It’s pretty fun to touch your bones and feel them working. Put your fingers on your face, just under your ears. Open and close your mouth several times. The bone you feel moving is your jaw, right where it fits into your skull.  Another fun bone to feel is the collarbone – also called the clavicle. It goes from the side of your neck out to your shoulder. It’s not covered by muscles so you can feel the bone itself, its edges and its sides.  When you move your shoulder up and down, you can feel your collar bone going up and down too. 

Do you ever wonder how tall you’re going to be? Here’s a way to make a pretty good guess:  get the height of your mother and your father in inches and add those together. Then add 5 if you are a boy or subtract 5 if you are a girl. Take that number (mother/father/plus or minus 5) and divide it in half. That’s approximately how tall you will be.

Finally, to make our bones strong and healthy, we need to eat nutritious bone food when we are young and growing. Bones especially need minerals like calcium and magnesium and phosphorus. The best healthy bone foods are vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruit and whole grains. So if you’re a kid, eat some of those foods every day in order to grow healthy bones.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these bony tips. Maybe you’ll share them with your family and friends. I hope you’ll have fun watching your very own skeleton grow bigger and taller.

I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck and I’m wishing you well.