A Parent’s Guide to Kids’ Vitamins

Kate Rhéaume, ND (Inactive)
Two boys drinking milk

Should kids take vitamins? Well, our bodies run on nutrients. From energy production to immune health and brain function, kids and adults need vitamins and minerals to thrive. Kids are notorious for being picky eaters and going on “food jags,” periods when they will only eat one or a select few foods, meal after meal. Very active children, such as little soccer and hockey players, may require more than the minimum nutrient intake for both growth and goal scoring. All these factors suggest that vitamin supplements are a good idea to ensure kids achieve optimal nutrition.

How much of each vitamin should kids take?

Dad playing soccer with son in park

The recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals varies with age and stage of life. Here is a reference for how much of each essential nutrient kids should be getting on a daily basis.[1] Use this as a guide to see if your child’s typical daily diet is providing adequate amounts of micronutrients.

Micronutrient Age 4–8 Age 9–13
Biotin 12 mcg 20 mcg
Folate 200 mcg 300 mcg
Niacin 8 mg 12 mg
Pantothenic Acid 3 mg 4 mg
Riboflavin 600 mcg 900 mcg

600 mcg
900 mcg
Vitamin A 1333 IU 2000 IU
Vitamin B6 600 mcg 1 mg
Vitamin B12

1.2 mcg
1.8 mcg
Vitamin C

25 mg
45 mg
Vitamin D 600 IU 600 IU
Vitamin E 10.5 IU 16.5 IU
Vitamin K 55 mcg 60 mcg
Calcium 1000 mg 1300 mg
Copper 440 mcg 700 mcg
Iron 10 mg 8 mg
Magnesium 130 mg 240 mg
Zinc 5 mg 8 mg
Choline 250 mg 375 mg

Don’t kids get enough vitamins from food?

Picky child at the dinner table

Even with well-planned, nutritious meals on the menu, it is a real challenge to meet all the vitamin and mineral needs of busy, growing bodies through food alone. For example, magnesium is required for more than 300 biological processes and is crucial for healthy growth and development. It supports the development and maintenance of bones, teeth, and healthy muscle function.

The recommended daily intake of this marvellous mineral for 9–13-year-olds is a hefty 240 mg per day! [2] That is the minimum daily amount of magnesium to avoid deficiency. If your child enjoys lots of cooked spinach along with nuts, seeds, and legumes every day, they might be getting close to this level of magnesium intake. On the other hand, if you have a typical child who turns their nose up at these foods, supplemental magnesium is a great way to bridge the gap.

Can vitamins keep my kids healthy?

Being deficient in any individual vitamin will obviously cause problems, and bumping the intake of that vitamin up to par will be beneficial. For example, low vitamin D levels are notorious for underlying a higher risk of viral upper respiratory tract infections. Supplementing with vitamin D in kids who are lacking helps protect them from winter illness.[3] But what about well-nourished kids without nutrient deficiencies? Do vitamin supplements have any value for the average, well-fed kid? Science says they do.

One study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that healthy children aged 8–14 given a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement demonstrated increased accuracy in attention-based tasks after only a few weeks of supplementation.[4] Similarly, a 2010 review of studies found that multiple micronutrient supplementation modestly improved reasoning abilities and academic performance in children.[5] We’re not saying that vitamin supplements will make your kid smarter; however, the research seems to be saying that.

Can kids take adult vitamins?

Just because a vitamin supplement comes in a gummy form doesn’t mean it’s meant to be taken by kids. Smaller bodies need smaller amounts of vitamins and minerals. This means kids generally shouldn’t take nutritional supplements designed for adults. For a few supplements, such as a liquid omega-3 fish oil, the family can usually share a bottle and simply give kids a smaller dose. Always follow label dosage directions on supplements and keep out of children’s reach.

When should kids start taking vitamins?

That depends on the vitamin. 400 IU of vitamin D daily is recommended right from birth, especially for breastfed infants who aren’t getting the vitamin D supplied by fortified infant formulas. Beyond that, multivitamin and mineral supplements are usually designed for kids aged three and up. A pediatrician might recommend vitamin supplements for younger children who are falling behind on the growth charts or children who are not in robust health.

What are the best vitamins for kids?

For most preschool and older kids, a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement, combined with a healthy diet, provides all the nutrients they need to flourish. A multivitamin typically provides B vitamins for energy, along with vitamins K2 and D, calcium, and magnesium for growing, strong skeletons. For kids that seem to catch every cold going around, additional immune-supportive nutrients, such as separate zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin D supplements, will help bolster defences against seasonal illness.

During times of stress, or when a tally of magnesium intake suggests your little one is consistently missing the daily intake target, a kids’ chewable magnesium tablet will supply what’s missing. Iron supplements deserve special mention. Beyond what is found in a multi, a separate iron supplement is not usually needed unless specifically indicated by your child’s doctor.

Vitamin supplements should never be viewed as a replacement for nutritious food. However, combined with mindful meal planning, the added nutrition provided by children’s vitamin supplements can help kids reach their potential and give parents nutritional peace of mind.

Kate Rhéaume, ND (Inactive)
Kate Rhéaume is a graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.
  1. Micronutrient Information Center. Micronutrient requirements of children ages 4 to 13 years [Internet]. Oregon State University; 2011. AvailableAdapted from:
  2. Health Canada. Dietary reference intakes [Internet]. 2006. Available from:
  3. Urashima M, Segawa T, Okazaki M, et al. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010; 91(5):1255-60.
  4. Haskell CF, Scholey AB, Jackson PA, et al. Cognitive and mood effects in healthy children during 12 weeks supplementation with multi-vitamin/minerals. Br J Nutr. 2008; 100:1086-96.
  5. Eilander A, Gera T, Sachdev HS, et al. Multiple micronutrient supplementation for improving cognitive performance in children: Systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010; 91(1):115-30.