Vitamins for kids–are they necessary?
I’m definitely a fan of doing what I can to get my kids to eat nutritiously as much as possible (tips on that coming soon!). But, let’s be honest, they often don’t–and if you’ve ever actually counted your own nutrient intake, neither do we! And if you’re a gardening nerd like me, you may be aware that store bought produce is not always as nutrient-dense as it could be anyway.
Many people tend to view vitamins for kids as something “extra,” but the truth is, they are necessary parts of so many processes inside our bodies. It’s definitely not easy to get all of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients we need for optimal health purely from what we eat–especially for growing (and picky) kids.
Especially for kids, low levels of certain vitamins can have significant effects on health–even behavior and mental functioning. Here’s more about the children’s vitamins and supplements I use to help make up the difference in my kids’ diets, whether we’re feeling well or a little sick.
In this post I have included ordinary links to products I like, as well as some affiliate links (which means if you decide to purchase I may receive a small kickback to help support this site).
Vitamins vs Supplements
Supplements is a term that makes many people feel skeptical–not surprising with all the questionable and even dangerous supplements out there. Did you know that supplements do not even have to be approved by the FDA before being marketed to consumers? That’s one reason it’s so important to buy from a trustworthy & reputable company.
While vitamins are generally classified under the term dietary supplement, there is a significant difference between vitamins and supplements. Generally supplements are any herb or (usually) “natural” substance that is said to benefit you in some way (whether or not it actually does).
Vitamins and minerals, on the other hand are essential nutrients that your body needs and uses daily to go through its normal processes, even at the cell level. Any basic nutrition class will tell you this.
Multivitamin tablets contain both vitamins and minerals. Vitamins (Like A, B, & C) come from once-living things that we eat (plants and animals). Minerals, on the other hand (like iron, calcium, zinc, & potassium), are generally found in soil, water, rocks, etc. With conventional agriculture, many consider our soil and food to have lower levels of important vitamins and minerals than it should.
To summarize, think of supplements as “extra” things that may help, compared to vitamins & minerals which are NECESSARY for the healthy body. This distinction is why I focus on vitamins first, and supplements second or as needed.
How I Found My Favorite Vitamins for Kids
As crazy as this past year has been, my love for immune-system boosting vitamins and supplements, especially vitamins for kids, started long before 2020.
Four years ago, I was in the early days of 3-kids-under-3 with my 5-week-old twins and almost-three year old. A scary bout of RSV almost got my older son admitted to the hospital, but eventually he was sent home (after I was thoroughly freaked out about the risk of my twins getting sick). Thankfully my husband and mother in law were around to help so I could keep the twins away from him until he was better.
The next morning, after that sleepless night, I just cried. I cried from fear that my twins would end up sick or hospitalized… but I also cried because, for their sake, I had to keep a little distance from my older son when all the motherly instinct in me wanted to comfort and care for my FIRST baby too!
In that moment, I decided I’d had enough of him bringing home preschool germs. I had to do something different! If you’re a mom of littles, you’ll know that sometimes you just get to the point where you’re willing to try almost anything.
I remembered hearing a few other moms mentioning a brand of immune boosting vitamins for kids that they felt had helped, so I found out more and gave it a try. I also ended up buying a women’s vitamin from the same company to get a discount on the vitamins for kids. Honestly, the adult multivitamin one was even more lifechanging for me, and I still use both products four years later!
I was immediately impressed with Shaklee as a company. Even though they do have salespeople if you need help, I appreciated that I could look up the products on the website and shop all on my own. I loved that the website and product descriptions were so transparent and it was easy to find lots of very thorough information about ingredients, product testing (including absorption tests) & larger longer term studies. Find more about what sets this company apart here.
If you do choose to buy anything with the link I provide, I might receive a discount or earn a small percentage to help support this site. When you check out, it will assign you to a “distributor” at random (or you can put in my email address, firstname.lastname@example.org in the referral section). No need to be pressured by an awkward salesperson, ever, unless you need advice on what to buy!
Many of these are from my all time favorite vitamin company, Shaklee. They currently have free shipping from now through New Years Eve, so save while you can! If you’d like a coupon for $10 off your first $100 order, click here. If you order and use the coupon, this will give me a $10 off coupon too, so thanks!
This is the basic multivitamin my kids take every day. Most of the time, it’s all they take. One of it’s major selling factors is the fact that it contains lactoferrin, a milk protein also found in breastmilk that supports the immune system. (If you’ve got a major dairy allergy I’d suggest the kosher version).
When choosing multi vitamins for kids or yourself, always be sure to read the label and see which nutrients are included and how much of each. I’ve found myself surprised when comparing them!
The list of vitamins and minerals is probably too long for many people to remember, so counting can help you compare how many are included. I was surprised to find my childhood favorite Flintstones only included about 12, and some formulations had no iron, calcium, or magnesium at all. Even some “fancier” brands are about the same too.
Incredivites includes a whopping 23 vitamins and minerals, including 100% daily value of C, E, and B vitamins, plus calcium and vitamin D. It is sugar free and sweetened with xylitol for no artificial sweeteners, flavor, or preservatives.
They are gluten free, whole-food based, and rigorously tested to ensure no lead contamination. Yes, surprisingly many vitamins for kids do contain traces of lead.
It’s important to note that most multi vitamins do not include the full daily value of calcium. Some of the most popular children’s vitamins on the market actually don’t contain any at all! This is because calcium is a very large molecule, making it impossible to fit enough in a reasonably sized tablet.
Yet calcium is one of the most important vitamins for kids–recommended intake is between 700 mg and 1300 mg of calcium each day depending on their age. Read more about calcium needs and food sources here. Since calcium is very important especially for kids’ growing bones and muscles, adding an extra calcium supplement is a good idea!
Low vitamin D in children is also a common problem–it’s estimated that 70% of kids in the U.S. don’t get enough. Low vitamin D in children can negatively affect the immune system, as well as bone health, heart health, and even mental health (with ties to depression, and possibly even autism).
I like Shaklee’s chewable Cal Mag Plus because it is easy for kids to take and also contains vitimin D to improve absorption of calcium. It also includes some magnesium, which has many benefits and important functions, from bones & muscles to mood & sleep. It has even been shown in studies to reduce muscle cramps, growing pains, and hyperactivity or anxiety. One study found 95% of children diagnosed with ADHD were deficient in magnesium. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised since many children’s vitamins don’t contain magnesium, and its main food sources are leafy green vegetables and nuts–not exactly kid favorites. If you think your child has a significant need for extra magnesium, this product has the highest daily value (if they can swallow tablets), or you can even try sprays or baths with epsom salts or other magnesium salts.
For an Extra Immune System Boost
Everyone knows vitamin c is a good one for your immune system, even though it’s far from being the only one (vitamin D and zinc are also power players).
These tasty little chewable vitamin c tablets are perfectly sized for kids. The flavor is good and not overpowering, just a little sweet and mostly lemony.
During times of sickness or when I want to boost immunity during sick season, here are some others I add.
4. Kids Elderberry Gummies
Walmart store brand may seem like an odd choice considering everything I said about choosing a good company. However, I like that each gummy contains twice as much elderberry and more than twice as much zinc (another immune boosting nutrient) than the other main brand even though they’re cheaper. Admittedly the “amount” of elderberry can be difficult to compare across brands due to the way it is labeled (juice vs extract vs powder etc.).
Thanks to good old 2020 though, my favorite Shaklee now carries elderberry gummies for kids (and a new elderberry supplement for adults). I haven’t tried them yet but I plan to. As with all of their products it is very smartly designed–it also contains Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zinc–clearly meant as an answer to the specific health concerns of this year. High five, Shaklee scientists.
5. Best homeopathic medicines for improving immune system during a cold
The “cold medicines” available for kids under 3 or 4 are pretty useless, aren’t they? Well, if I’ve tried one I’ve tried them all (even some essential oils), and these are the ones I’ve actually felt are somewhat helpful (and not messy)! My small children take the soft chewable tablets without any complaints, medicine cups or sticky residue.
Boiron’s “Cold Calm” and Genexa’s “Cold Crush” have pretty similar ingredients, so I would choose one or the other. Cold calm has an option of infant liquid doses which really just taste like water. I like cold crush a little better since it also includes elderberry and seems to be a little better price, and the dosing is a little less confusing.
Wishing you a happy and healthy winter–see you at the veggie garden in Spring!