What Vitamins Should Kids Take? Supplement Needs for Children at Different Ages

what vitamins should kids take

Quick Health Scoop

  • From infancy to adolescence, children’s bodies continue to grow and develop, requiring key nutrients for them to be healthy
  • Certain circumstances might make it difficult for babies, kids, and teens to get all the nutrients they need from breast milk and food
  • Health problems, poor diet, and lifestyle issues might affect their nutrient intake
  • Talk to your children’s pediatrician about their specific health concerns, diet and nutritional needs, lifestyle choices and ask if supplements for kids may be helpful with their journey to optimal health

In an ideal world, your kids would get all the vitamins and minerals they need by eating a healthy, balanced diet. But the reality is, life is messy. Busy families eat on the go, picking up fast food on the way to sports practice. Working parents, tired from a long day on the job, sometimes opt for “fast and convenient” at the expense of “balanced and nutritious.” And, much to everyone’s dismay, at least one picky-eater exists in almost every family. 

Can you relate?

All this might make you wonder if your growing children get the daily nutrients they need for normal, healthy development. Should you consider vitamins for kids? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “dietary supplement use is fairly prevalent among U.S. children and adolescents and contributes to overall total nutrient intake,” with roughly one-third of kids and teens taking supplements.1 You yourself might even be considering supplements for kids.

Should I Give My Child Vitamins? 

The official stance of the American Academy of Pediatrics is that “healthy children receiving a normal, well-balanced diet do not need vitamin supplementation over and above the recommended dietary allowances.”2 

However, what if children aren’t healthy or don’t eat a well-balanced diet? Supplements including vitamins for kids might be a good idea in certain circumstances. For instance, children with celiac disease may have trouble absorbing some essential nutrients, such as Vitamin D. Children who eat a vegan diet (one that includes no animal products), might be missing key nutrients such as Vitamins A, D, some B vitamins (B2, B12), calcium, iron, and zinc.3 Children who follow a typical American diet might not eat enough of certain foods (such as inadequate amount of meat, seafood, dairy, fruits, or vegetables), as research shows diets of U.S. children remain poor for most kids.4 Supplements for kids can help fill in nutritional gaps that may exist in their diet.

Learn More: A List of The 7 Best Healthy Foods to Eat

Other issues are at play, too. For example, these factors might affect whether children and teens get adequate levels of Vitamin D, including those who are:5 

  • obese
  • have dark skin
  • rarely go outside
  • wear clothing that covers most of their skin 

Learn More: How Much Vitamin D Do You Get From the Sun?

So, what vitamins do kids need? It’s important to consider the essential vitamins and minerals, from A to Zinc!

What Age Should Kids Start Taking Vitamins? 

Do one-year-olds need vitamins? Should my seven-year-old take vitamins? How about teens? It’s always best to get nutrients from food. However, as mentioned above, certain circumstance might warrant the need for supplements. The best vitamins for toddlers are those specifically designed for toddlers. Why? Because children’s nutrient needs vary, depending on a variety of factors such as age, sex, size, growth, and activity level. Here’s an overview of specific vitamins that children of all ages may not get enough of.

Vitamins for Infants and Children

  • Vitamin D 

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, aids in supporting healthy teeth and bones, and plays an important role in immune and muscle health. Although the body obtains Vitamin D by absorbing sunlight, babies and children need to be protected when they’re outside. They should either be kept out of direct sun or wear sunscreen to decrease the risk of developing skin cancer. While wearing sunscreen protects their skin, it impedes their ability to get Vitamin D from the sun. The AAP recommends a daily minimum intake of 400 IU of Vitamin D starting soon after birth.3 Formula-fed infants may likely get what they need; but babies who are breastfeed most likely need supplemental Vitamin D drops. 5, 6 Toddlers and older children may get some vitamin D from foods that contain vitamin D or are fortified, however, a supplement may need to continue through these years to ensure they are getting enough. Research estimates that one in 10 U.S. children are vitamin D deficient and that 60 percent of children may have suboptimal levels of vitamin D. 7

Food sources of Vitamin D: Fatty fish (think mackerel, salmon, trout, and tuna) and fish liver oils, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, mushrooms, plus Vitamin D-fortified foods (such as cereal, milk and orange juice)6 

Vitamin D Requirements (National Institutes of Health) 8 

Age

Recommended Amount of Vitamin D

Birth to 12 months

10 mcg (400 IU)

Children 1–13 years

15 mcg (600 IU)

Teens 14–18 years

15 mcg (600 IU)

  • Iron 

Iron plays an important role in the body’s growth and development and helps transport oxygen from the lungs throughout the body. During the third trimester, babies receive enough iron from mom to last for the first four months of life. The AAP recommends giving breastfed infants 1 mg/day of a liquid iron supplement until you introduce iron-rich solid foods into their diet at about six months old. For formula-fed babies, make sure you choose formula that contains 4-12 mg of iron.3 

Food sources of Iron: lean meat, seafood, poultry, beans (white, kidney), lentils, spinach, peas, nuts, some dried fruits (raisins) and iron-fortified foods such as breakfast cereals and bread 11

Iron Requirements (National Institutes of Health)9

Age

Recommended Amount of Iron

Birth to 6 months

0.27 mg

Infants 7–12 months

11 mg

Children 1–3 years

7 mg

Children 4–8 years

10 mg

Children 9–13 years

8 mg

Teens boys 14–18 years

11 mg

Teens girls 14–18 years

15 mg


Vitamins for Teens

In industrialized nations like the U.S., teens are increasingly consuming nutrient-poor diets filled with fast food, sugary drinks, and processed foods. Studies show that many teens don’t come close to meeting daily requirements for fruits, vegetables, and milk, increasing their risk for nutrient deficiencies.12 In fact, many adolescents are low in key nutrients (such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber), causing concern by the USDA.13

  • Vitamin D continues to play an important role in your still-developing teen’s body. For that reason, the AAP recommends a daily dose of 600 IU of iron for older children, adolescents, and teens.14 
  • Calcium is essential to bone health and strong teeth.    
  • Fiber helps support a healthy gut.
  • Iron supports muscle-building (especially during a teen’s growth and development), and adolescents require a bit more iron during puberty than younger children (11-15 mg/day for teens ages 14-18 vs 8-10mg/day for children ages 4-13)12, 15
  • Magnesium assists in more than 300 metabolic reactions in the body—from supporting nerve function to regulating muscle function to maintaining bone density.
  • Potassium supports your body’s heart, muscle, and nerve functions.   

Due to the varying quantities of different nutrient needs at different ages, kids multivitamins make sense, as do supplements designed specifically for teens.

The Bottom Line

Do infants and toddlers get enough vitamins? What vitamins do children need? And what kind of vitamins should a teenager take? While there are general recommendations (breastfed babies might need supplemental Vitamin D, teens need more iron during puberty), it often comes down to your children’s specific health goals, diet, and lifestyle. Your best bet is to talk about their diet and nutritional needs/requirements, health and lifestyle goals with a Registered Dietitian and/or their pediatrician. 

Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.

Learn More About Vitamins & Supplements:


This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information.

†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

References 

 

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Dietary Supplement Use in Children and Adolescents Aged ≤19 Years — United States, 2017–2018.” October 30, 2020. Accessed on: July 6, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6943a1.htm 
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. “Where We Stand: Vitamins.” July 11, 2014. Accessed on: July 6, 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Where-We-Stand-Vitamins.aspx
  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. “Dietary Supplements for Toddlers.” June 22, 2017. Accessed on: July 6, 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/nutrition/Pages/Dietary-Supplements-for-Toddlers.aspx 
  4. National Institutes of Health. “Diets improve but remain poor for most U.S. children.” April 7, 2020. Accessed on: September 17, 2021. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/diets-improve-remain-poor-most-us-children
  5. American Academy of Pediatrics. “Vitamin D & Iron Supplements for Babies: AAP Recommendations.” Accessed on: July 7, 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Vitamin-Iron-Supplements.aspx
  6. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Vitamin D Supplements: What Parents Should Know.” May 4, 2021. Accessed on: July 7, 2021. https://www.chop.edu/news/health-tip/vitamin-d-supplements-what-parents-should-know 
  7. Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Memo to Pediatricians: Screen All Kids for Vitamin D Deficiency, Test Those at High Risk.” February 22, 2012. Accessed on: September 17, 2021. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/memo_to_pediatricians_screen_all_kids_for_vitamin_d_deficiency_test_those_at_high_risk
  8. National Institutes of Health. “Vitamin D.” March 22, 2021. Accessed on: July 7, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/ 
  9. American Academy of Dietetics. “4 Infant Supplements to Ask Your Pediatrician About.” April 2021. Accessed on: July 7, 2021. https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/dietary-supplements/4-infant-supplements-to-ask-your-pediatrician-about 
  10. National Institutes of Health. “Vitamin B12.” July 7, 2021. Accessed on: July 7, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-Consumer/  
  11. National Institutes of Health. “Iron.” March 22, 2021. Accessed on: July 7, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-Consumer/ 
  12. Linus Pauling Institute. “Micronutrient Requirements of Adolescents Ages 14 to 18 Years.” July 2012. Accessed on: July 7, 2021. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/life-stages/adolescents 
  13. Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Healthy Eating During Adolescence.” 2021. Accessed on: July 7, 2021. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/healthy-eating-during-adolescence 
  14. American Academy of Pediatrics. “Optimizing Bone Health in Children and Adolescents.” October 2014. Accessed on: July 7, 2021. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/134/4/e1229 
  15. Linus Pauling Institute. “Micronutrient Requirements of Children Ages 4 to 13 Years.” August  2011. Accessed on: September 17, 2021. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/life-stages/children#ages-4-to-8-years
  16. National Institutes of Health. “10 Things To Know About Dietary Supplements for Children and Teens.” July 6, 2021. Accessed on: July 7, 2021. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/things-to-know-about-dietary-supplements-for-children-and-teens