Calcium Supplements for Kids

Childhood Nutrition Basics

Girl Drinking Milk
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Are your kids getting enough calcium in their diet?

We all know that calcium is important for building strong bones, but don't always make sure that our kids are getting enough in their diet.

Calcium Requirements

Parents are often surprised by how much calcium their kids actually need each day. Remember that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children who are:

  • 1-3 years old get 700mg per day (about two cups of milk)
  • 4-8 years old get 1,000mg per day (about three cups of milk)
  • 9-18 years old get 1,300mg per day (about four cups of milk)

Unfortunately, most children, especially teens, often get much less than their recommended daily calcium requirements.

Calcium Rich Foods

Like most other vitamins and minerals, you are usually best off getting your child her nutrition from the foods that she eats and drinks, including calcium rich foods, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Kids can also get calcium from nondairy foods, such as salmon, tofu, collard greens, etc., and many calcium fortified foods, including many varieties of bread, orange juice, and cereals.

Many kids don't drink enough milk though, choosing to drink juice and soda instead. In addition to extra sugar and calories, these drinks don't have any nutritional benefits and take the place of drinks that do.

Choosing a Calcium Supplement

If your kids aren't getting enough calcium in their ​diet though, you may need to give them a calcium supplement each day.

Choosing a calcium supplement can be confusing though, as there are many different kinds, including calcium carbonate, calcium gluconate, liquid calcium, etc.

Also making things confusing, most nutrition facts label don't seem to include the amount of elemental calcium the supplement contains, which is what the daily recommendations include, and they don't seem to include the %DV based on the AAP recommendations.

The %DV on these supplements is typically based on a daily requirement of 1,000mg instead.

Unfortunately, many children's "complete" multivitamins that say that they have calcium in them don't actually contain very much calcium and definitely don't have enough to meet your child's daily needs, which confuses things even more. For example, consider this popular brand of children's multivitamin - Flintstones Children's Multivitamin plus Calcium, Chewable Tablets.

Although considered an 'excellent source of calcium,' this multivitamin actually only has 200mg of Calcium, which is less than an 8oz glass of milk and much less than the daily requirements for a child at any age. Although it can be a nice supplement for kids who are getting a moderate amount of calcium in their diet and just need a little boost, it is hardly enough for kids who need most of their daily calcium needs in a daily vitamin.

Other vitamins which are relatively low in calcium include:

  • One-A-Day Kids Scooby-Doo! Multivitamin plus Calcium (200mg Calcium per chewable tablet)
  • L'il Critters Calcium Gummy Bears (200mg Calcium in two Gummy Bears)
  • L'il Critters Groovy Calcium Gummy Bears (200mg Calcium in two Gummy Bears)

A much better choice if your child is not getting many calcium rich foods in his diet is a calcium supplement with much more calcium per serving.

The L'il Critters Calcium Taffy Soft Chews for Kids brand of calcium supplements seems like a great choice, as it lists 500mg of calcium per serving! Available in chocolate and assorted fruit flavors, L'il Critters Calcium Taffy chews also include vitamin D and vitamin K. The assorted fruits version is also dairy free, which is great for kids with milk allergies, who often have a hard time getting enough calcium in their diet. It is important to note that they provide 500mg of calcium carbonate, though, and like most other children's vitamins, only about 200mg of elemental calcium.

A calcium supplement with vitamin D is a great idea, since if your child isn't getting enough calcium in his diet, then he likely isn't getting enough vitamin D either.

Other Calcium Supplements

People have often taken antacids as a way to get extra calcium in their diet. You can now do this for kids too by giving them Children's Pepto with 400mg of calcium carbonate. Keep in mind that is only equal to 161mg of elemental calcium, though.

Although marketed to adult women, if you are still looking for another option for a calcium supplement for your child, you might ask your pediatrician about giving your child a Viactiv Calcium Soft Chew, which contain 500mg of calcium each. And yes, that is the amount of elemental calcium in each soft chew, since they contain about 1,250mg of calcium carbonate each.

What To Know About Calcium Supplements for Kids

If you can't get your kids to drink more milk or eat more calcium rich foods, then you should likely give then a daily supplement with calcium and vitamin D. Remember that daily exercise is important for strong bones too though.

Abrams, Steven A. Dietary Guidelines for Calcium and Vitamin D: A New Era. Pediatrics. March 2011, VOLUME 127 / ISSUE 3

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