Calcium for Kids: Building Healthy Bones and Teeth Early On
- Calcium is a mineral that’s essential for your child’s bone health.
- Their body doesn’t produce it, so your little one needs to get it from their diet.
- As they grow and need more, getting enough from food can become a challenge and you may need to consider a calcium supplement for kids or a calcium supplement for toddlers.
- Calcium for kids is available in different forms and it’s important to choose a high-quality supplement.
Calcium for kids is critical from very early on in their life. Yet most children in the U.S., especially girls, don’t get anywhere near the amount of calcium they need. In fact, research shows that only 13-15% of girls between the ages of 9 and 18 get enough calcium from their food and dietary supplements combined. Despite our best intentions, we’re unknowingly setting our children up for conditions like osteoporosis later on in life.
Let’s explore what calcium is and why your child needs it. We’ll also look at how much calcium they need, what foods to give them to boost their calcium intake and how to decide if they need a calcium supplement for kids.
Benefits of Calcium for Kids
A primary benefit of calcium for kids is that it’s a mineral best known for building strong bones and teeth. It’s especially critical for kids because they start storing calcium in their bones from early on, and by the time your (no longer so) little one is around 18-20 years old, up to 90% of their bone mass has developed. Bone mass then peaks between 25 and 30 years of age. Then as they get older, the body starts using up calcium, and if it isn’t replaced, their bones become thinner and more brittle.
Kids who get enough calcium in childhood develop healthy bones. They’re therefore far less likely to suffer from bone density-related conditions like fractures and osteoporosis later on in life.
Apart from building healthy bones, calcium for kids also has other functions:
- It regulates their heartbeat
- It helps with muscle contraction and extension
- It keeps their blood circulating and regulates blood pressure
- It regulates hormones and other important chemicals
- It helps their nerves to send messages around their body
Vitamin D is also a critical nutrient as it helps with calcium absorption, so your child’s body can use the calcium they consume.
Babies and toddlers who don’t get enough calcium and vitamin D can develop rickets. This disease stunts their growth and softens and weakens bones. They may end up with bow legs and weak muscles — which is the last thing your child needs when they should be out there running around and swinging from jungle gyms.
How Much Calcium Does Your Child Need?
The amount of calcium your little one needs depends on their age. The National Institutes of Health recommends these daily intakes, measured in milligrams of calcium:
- 0-6 months of age: 200 milligrams
- 7-12 months of age: 260 milligrams
- 1-3 years of age: 700 milligrams (or 2-3 servings)
- 4-8 years of age: 1,000 milligrams (or 2-3 servings)
- 9-18 years of age: 1,300 milligrams (4 servings)
In real terms, a cup of milk, half a cup of diced or shredded cheese, 200 grams of yogurt, or 1 cup of cooked spinach would provide one serving of calcium for kids.
It’s also important to make sure they get enough vitamin D to help absorb that calcium. Up to the age of one, they need 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day, and then 15 micrograms from one year onward.
Calcium-Rich Foods to Help Meet Your Child’s Calcium Requirements
If you’re breastfeeding, your body stores calcium, mostly from your bones, to make sure your breast milk contains exactly the right amount of calcium to meet your baby’s needs. And although your breast milk contains less calcium than cow’s milk, it’s twice as bioavailable so your body can use more of it. If your baby is on a formula, make sure it’s enriched with calcium.
To meet your toddler or older child’s daily requirement of calcium, start with whole food sources, including a variety of legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and seeds. These whole foods are good sources of calcium for kids, so try to include at least some of them in your child’s diet:
- White beans
- Cooked leafy greens, especially collard greens and turnip greens
- Sweet potatoes and butternut
- Dried figs
- Sesame seeds
- Chia seeds
- Almonds and brazil nuts
Although dairy products like cow’s milk and cottage cheese have a particularly high calcium content and are often considered good for bones, research shows that this may not be the case. Dairy products are also common allergens.
Calcium-fortified foods are widely available too, but the food itself is often processed and unhealthy, and the vitamins that are added are usually synthetic and low-quality.
So if you choose to give dairy or fortified foods to your child, do so sparingly. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives available.
Calcium Supplements for Kids
If your child is a picky eater, it might be tricky to get them to eat enough calcium-rich food to develop those strong bones they need. And by the time they’re a teenager and going through a major growth spurt, getting four servings into them is likely to be an even bigger challenge.
If you’re concerned that your child’s calcium intake isn’t high enough, it’s worth seeking medical advice. Consult your pediatrician or a pediatric dietitian to find out how to increase their calcium intake from whole foods first. Then if that fails, you can discuss the possibility of using a calcium supplement for toddlers or a calcium supplement for kids.
There are calcium supplements for kids that are pure calcium, usually in the form of calcium carbonate or calcium citrate. Calcium is also occasionally found in multivitamin supplements along with other important nutrients like magnesium and zinc, or combined with vitamin D. Check the label carefully though, as many multivitamins don’t include calcium or it’s in very low doses. However, the preference is for kids to get enough calcium through whole foods.
And as we’ve mentioned, your little one also needs enough vitamin D to help absorb calcium. Vitamin D comes primarily from sunlight, and in small quantities in foods like egg yolks and fish, plus some fortified foods. There’s a good chance your child isn’t getting enough though, so they might also need a good vitamin D supplement like Llama Naturals daily vitamin D3 gummies.
Whatever supplements you choose, make sure they’re free of sugar and artificial sweeteners, as well as artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives — like all Llama Naturals products.
Calcium for Kids: An Essential Part of Your Child’s Diet
Calcium for kids builds healthy bones and teeth, protecting against conditions like osteoporosis later in life. It also keeps their heart, muscles, nerves, and hormones working well.
To make sure your little one gets enough calcium, prioritize including plenty of calcium-rich foods in their diet, making sure to increase their calcium intake as they grow. If they get enough whole foods, they likely won’t need a calcium supplement for kids. While keeping in mind the intake of calcium for kids, don’t forget about other high-quality supplements for children, like vitamin D or multivitamins.
Give your child the calcium they need now, and you’ll know you’re setting them up for healthy bones and teeth throughout their adult life and into maturity.
Llama Naturals is a plant-based nutrition brand that has created the World's First Whole Fruit Gummy Vitamins that are made with no added sugar and whole-food vitamins. They are USDA Organic, Vegan, Gluten Free, free of common allergens, and are slow-cooked on low heat to retain rich phytonutrients & fruit flavor. It’s a win-win gummy vitamin that the whole family will love.