Too Fast? Too Slow? What Your Heart Rate Means at Every Age

Normal Heart Rate for Kids and How to Check Your Pulse
Doctor listening to heartbeats with a stethoscope

How fast is your heart beating? You can measure it in just 3 steps! Your heart rate is the number of times your heart pumps blood around the body in one minute. Doctors and nurses can hear your amazing heart by putting a stethoscope on your chest. But it’s also helpful to check your heart rate in other areas. Your pulse is the type of heart rate that you can feel.

All about your heart rate and pulse

Every time your heart beats, the heart squirts blood through blood vessels called arteries. The arteries carry fresh, oxygen-rich blood to all your organs.

When you check your pulse, you feel blood flow through a large artery under your skin. This tells us that blood from your heart has made the journey to far-away body parts.

Where can you feel your pulse?

Here are 3 popular places to check your pulse.

How to teach kids to check the carotid pulse on the side of the neck

Carotid pulse

You can find the carotid pulse on the side of your neck. This area is under the corner of your jawbone.

The carotid pulse is one of the best places to check the heart rate in children and adults.

However, this area is not an option for babies since they have short and chubby necks.

Check radial pulse on side of wrist

Radial pulse

You can find the radial pulse on the side of your wrist. This area is under your thumb.

Brachial pulse

You can find the brachial pulse on the inside of the upper arm. This is the best area to check a baby’s pulse.

Other places with pulses

Doctors, nurses, and emergency rescuers must know how to check pulses in many areas around the body.

Can you find these other pulses in your body?

  • The femoral pulse is in the crease of your hip between your leg and belly.
  • The pedal pulse is on the top of your foot, and the brachial pulse is under the elbow.
brachial pulse - check heart rate for babies

How to check your pulse in 3 steps

You can check your pulse at home, school, during sports games, or anywhere!
All you need is a stopwatch, a timer, or a watch with a second hand.

  • With your index finger and middle finger, gently press down until you feel a pulsing “thump”. (Do not use your thumb.)
  • Set a timer for 30 seconds. When you feel the beat, count each little “thump”.
  • Write down the number you counted. Multiply it by 2 to get the number of beats per minute.

Although you can keep counting pulse beats for a whole minute, sometimes people lose track of the number when they count for longer. But if you’re curious, you can measure your pulse for 60 seconds!

Normal heart rate for babies, kids, teens, and adults

Based on research, scientists have noticed heart rate patterns for different ages. They have also tracked heart rates when children are resting compared to when they are busy moving around.

Here are common resting heart rates for babies, children, teenagers, and adults:

  • INFANT (Age < 1 year) – 100-160 bpm
  • TODDLER (Age 1-3 years) – 90-140 bpm
  • PRESCHOOLER (Age 3-6 years) – 80-120 bpm
  • CHILD (Age 6-12 years) – 70-110 bpm
  • TEEN & ADULT (Age > 12 years) – 60-100 bpm

Kids have a faster heart rate than adults!

Have you ever felt your pulse and compared it to someone older or younger than you?

Babies have the fastest heart rates. As kids grow up and become adults, their heart rate slows.

By the teenage years, the typical heart rate is in the same range as adults. This is because the body becomes more like an adult after puberty.

normal heart rate bar graph chart for babies, children, and teens

Ask a friend or relative for permission to check their pulse. How does their heart rate compare to yours?

Why does your heart rate change throughout the day?

Depending on whether your body needs more oxygen-rich blood flow, your heart will speed up and slow down.

Usually, when your organs are more active and need more oxygen, your heart muscle will rev up and pump up the action.

What causes your heart to beat faster?

When you exercise, your heart pumps faster to keep up with your movements.

Your heart also speeds up when you’re scared, excited, or nervous. During active or stressful events, many people notice their heart pounding.

Run around for 1 minute and check your pulse. What number did you get this time?

What causes your heart to slow down?

When you rest and sleep, your heart pumps slower. Mindfulness activities can also help your heart relax.

Lay down on a couch and rest for 5 minutes. Then, measure your pulse again. What number did you get this time?

Learn more about your amazing heart!

Human Body Learning Lab book - Circulatory System chapter

Where is your heart, and what’s inside of it? How does blood get from the heart to other parts of the body?

With the Human Body Learning Lab book, you can have fun exploring these great questions!

Human Body Learning Lab is filled with kid-friendly science facts, memorable experiments, diverse realistic images, and practical health tips.

Updated on November 28, 2023 by Betty Choi, MD

Updated on November 28, 2023 by Betty Choi, MD