Toddler Vitamins, Supplements, and Immune Boosters

by health and nutrition advice journalist

Knowing which toddler vitamins—not to mention supplements, probiotics, and other immune boosters— to give your toddler is complicated. Today, we sort through the research so you can know what you actually need to give your kids.

Toddler Vitamins

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. Toddler vitamins and supplements seem like something that might help…but do they?

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Are toddler vitamins necessary?

Sick kids are a handful and for good reason—they 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. 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 healthy in the hopes of keeping them well. But vitamins are not exactly a cure-all.

Does my toddler need a multivitamin?

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!)

What are the best toddler vitamins?

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.

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.

What’s a good vitamin for kids with iron?

This toddler vitamin with iron from Zarbees 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.

Do probiotics help prevent toddler sickness?

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.

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.

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.

homemade orange honey gummies

Does Vitamin C help prevent or cure illness?

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
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Strawberries
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoe

lolleez pops for kidsIs 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 by the spoonful.

elderberry syrup for kidsCan elderberry syrup 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!)

How important is the flu shot?

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.

I’ve also realized that 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).

fresh produceWhat’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.

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.

Did you know that your toddler needs sleep to stay healthy?

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 

The best things we can do are what we’re all trying to do already: Offering lots of fresh, healthy produce, lots of sleep, fresh air, and good hygiene. And maybe extra warm baths, snuggles, liquids, and books when the littles are sick.

Maybe it’s good to remember that our kids will inevitably get sick, but when they do, we don’t have to run out and buy a cart full of expensive products to make them feel better. (Unless of course your pediatrician tells you to or you need different options of foods and drinks they’ll actually consume!)

*NOTE: 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. 

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