Knowing which toddler vitamins—not to mention supplements, probiotics, and other immune boosters— to give your toddler is complicated. I’ve sorted through the research so you be fully informed when looking to buy vitamins for kids.
If you use toddler vitamins and are wondering if they’re the “right” ones, or if you’re curious if you should start one, know that this is a complicated and confusing topic. And whenever we hit the time of the year when more colds and illness are coming up, we all feel like this is something we should be doing. Vitamins for kids and supplements seem like something that might help…but do they?
TIP: Always talk to your pediatrician before giving a supplement to your child, especially if they are very sick and might have an underlying illness. This post is not meant to be a substitution for medical advice.
SHOULD KIDS AND TODDLERS TAKE VITAMINS?
Sick kids can’t do much to make themselves feel better, they don’t always understand why they feel so crappy, and they don’t know that they will, one day, feel better again. It’s so hard! Plus, when our kids feel badly, we moms do too.
Toddler vitamins and supplements are often one of the things we think we should be giving our kids when they are sick…and when they are healthy in the hopes of keeping them well. But vitamins are not exactly a cure-all.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that kids who are eating a balanced and well-rounded diet don’t need a multivitamin. If you’re not sure that your toddler is eating a balanced diet, then you can ask your pediatrician for their advice on this topic—but generally speaking, nutrients from actual foods are always going to be preferred to those in a toddler vitamins.
If you’re wanting to add more nutrient dense foods to your family’s diet to get closer to ideal of “well-rounded”, think smoothies with packed with berries and greens, sweet potatoes, broccoli, wild salmon, black beans, and kale. Generally, the more fresh, brightly colored produce, the better. (Related: Toddler serving sizes are smaller than you might realize so they might be getting plenty!)
TIP: A multivitamin for kids can provide a safety net and reassure you that your kids are getting adequate nutrition, no matter what they’re eating (or not eating).
BEST MULTIVITAMINS FOR KIDS AND TODDLERS
It’s important to know that supplements, including toddler vitamins, aren’t approved by the FDA, so you really need to trust the brand you buy because no other organization is going to vet them for you. When looking at options, look for:
- The RDA. Many vitamins have upwards of 500% of the recommended daily allowance of certain vitamins and minerals and frankly, that can just be dangerous or it won’t all be absorbed by the boy. I look for percentages closer to 100%.
- The serving size. Be sure to read the serving size thoroughly since they vary widely. It might be one vitamin or two or even 6. If you aren’t sure of the right dose, you can always bring it to your pediatrician for help.
- Look at the brand. Look for a brand that is transparent about ingredient, shares information when products are recalled (because this means they’re committed to keeping their customers safe!), and has a customer service line that’s accessible.
BEST KIDS VITAMINS WITH IRON
This toddler vitamin with iron from Zarbees (photo 4 above) is a nice option. Check the serving size and the iron amounts for perspective on how much is in there—your child will still need to get some from food. Iron is often a nutrient that kids fall short on (and it’s probably the only nutrient I’d say that about!), so you may want to consider a supplement in consultation with your pediatrician if your child doesn’t regularly consume iron-rich foods.
DOES THE VITAMIN NEED TO BE ORGANIC?
Buying organic foods or toddler vitamins is a personal choice. Organic vitamins will often cost a lot more, so I would recommend that you look at your options and weigh your choices. To me, whether or not a vitamin is organic or not is not the sign of it being “good”—and I often find them to be price prohibitive. But this varies widely based on brand and where you shop.
ARE GUMMY VITAMINS GOOD FOR TODDLERS?
The main issue with gummy vitamins for kids is that they look like candy and your child may not understand that they are not meant to be eaten like candy. So you MUST keep them out of reach, even if they have a child-proof top on them. For toddlers over 2, they are usually easy enough to chew.
PROBIOTICS FOR KIDS
A lot of research is still being done on probiotics, but they are generally considered safe to give to kids. They seem to help most with helping to shorten bouts of upset tummies and may help lessen eczema caused by milk allergies. Some parents give them to help increase healthy gut flora and overall wellness—though some doctors believe that this might not help since the gut flora of kids is still developing.
Ask your pediatrician for their thoughts if you are considering a probiotic and know that it’s still recommended that you offer probiotic rich foods first before offering a supplement.
WHAT BRANDS OF PROBIOTICS ARE GOOD FOR KIDS?
Two brands that I’ve tried and like are Jarrow and Culterelle. (I give both of my kids these. The older one has the chewables and the younger one gets the dissolvable powder in her morning milk or smoothie.) If you’re wondering whether probiotics need to be refrigerated, yes and no. Some do and they will say so on the label, and others, which have been made with more recently developed freeze-drying technology don’t.
For more info on the specific strains of probiotics may help which ailments, this story from Parents breaks it down nicely towards the bottom.
TIP: Many kids vitamins also contain probiotics, like this one from Olly.
WHICH KID-FRIENDLY FOODS HAVE THE MOST PROBIOTICS?
If you want to avoid a probiotic supplement, offer your toddler yogurt with live cultures (just look for that language on the label), try a yogurt drink, or kefir, which is a sort of tangier cousin to drinkable yogurt that’s chock full of probiotics. Or fermented pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut or cottage cheese.
VITAMIN C FOR KIDS
A vitamin C supplement isn’t necessary if your kids are eating a balanced diet. Vitamin C, along with vitamins A and D, can be toxic when given in high doses, so you need to know how much is too much with this supplement. The recommended daily amount for kids aged 1-3 is 15 mg. And while Vitamin C supplements have been shown to reduce the duration of colds by 1 day, it just as easy to turn to whole foods. Vitamin C rich foods that toddler might like include:
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Green peppers
- Or my Orange-Honey Homemade Gummies!
IS HONEY SAFE TO SOOTH A TODDLER’S SORE THROAT?
You may have heard that local honey can help with allergies. Some experts think so, some don’t give it much credit. And that it can also soothe a sore throat. If your little one is over 1 year of age (honey is NOT safe for kids younger than 1) and has a sore throat, try:
- Honey Tea: Add 1 teaspoon of honey to warm water to make a sweet and comforting drink.
- Honey by the spoonful.
- Honey-based cough syrup: This one coats the throat nicely but does of course wear off as kids swallow. It also has a mild flavor. Or just give it to them on a spoon. It can help them feel better by coating their sore throat, and feel like they’re getting a special treat when they don’t feel well.
- Lolleez pops. They are safe for ages 3 and up and they too can help coat a sore throat to alleviate some of the pain. They recently saved us during a night when my oldest had Strep and couldn’t get comfortable enough to sleep.
CAN ELDERBERRY SYRUP FOR TODDLERS HELP PREVENT SICKNESS?
You can make this yourself from dried berries or buy it ready-made—it’s a sweet syrup that many families swear by for staying healthy in the winter. Some initial research has shown that it can decrease the duration of the flu. I tend to err on the side of skepticism with herbal supplements, but we’ve actually used this one with some regularity. (Though, honestly, the kids do still get sick!)
TIP: It’s also available as gummies.
FLU SHOTS FOR KIDS
Over the years, I’ve gone back and forth about the flu shot, especially since it’s usually only 50-60% effective. But one year my then 3-year-old got the flu and it was MISERABLE. I was pregnant and so worn out from being up all night with her that I lost 4 pounds over a weekend and had to get IV fluids. Talk to your doctor about the best options for your family.
It’s extremely important for those of us who can get the flu shot get it to help protect those with more fragile immune systems stay healthy. Because the less flu ridden-people they are exposed to, the less of a chance they have to get it (and land in the hospital where they might face a whole host of complications).
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO PREVENT SICK KIDS?
Toddlers (and babies) put their hands in their mouths a lot. They touch their faces all day long. They are in contact with toys that other kids have had near their faces regularly. Which means that hand washing—and a lot of it—is essential. Hand washing is likely the single best thing you can do to keep your kids healthy.
TIPS FOR WASHING LITTLE KIDS HANDS
Remember these pointers with hand washing and little kids.
- Wash hands when they get home from school, daycare, or the library.
- Wash hands when they are about to eat a meal.
- Wash hands frequently if the kids often have them in their mouths.
- Help them wash hands to ensure that they’re doing it thoroughly.
- Sing a song while washing—Itsy Bitsy or Happy Birthday work well—to ensure it’s long enough.
- We also like to change into clean clothes when we get home from school and daycare.
- And consider having a separate lovey that stays at daycare to avoid bringing germs back and forth.
- Carry hand sanitizer for after the grocery store, library, or just being out and about touching things that many people have touched.
SLEEP IS KEY FOR TODDLER IMMUNE HEALTH
This is often overlooked when it comes to keeping the kids well (and alert, focused, and able to behave). If your toddler isn’t getting the recommended 11-14 hours a day (including naps), consider:
- Move bedtime earlier (sleep often begets sleep!)
- Create a more concrete bedtime routine—toddlers thrive on routine!
- Insist on afternoon rest time if they’ve ditched their naps. (It’s hard, I know!)
BOTTOMLINE ON TODDLER VITAMINS FOR KIDS
The best things we can do are what we’re all trying to do already: Offering lots of fresh, healthy produce, sleep, fresh air, and good hygiene. And maybe extra warm baths, snuggles, liquids, and books when the littles are sick. And use a few products as safety nets or for help soothing as you decide is right for your family.