You do your best to fill their plates with colorful, nutrient-dense foods, but try as you might, kids (of all ages!) are fickle creatures. As a nutritionist and a mom, I’ve seen it firsthand: One day they’re scarfing down your lentil beet burgers, the next it’s mac and cheese only for a week—hold the peas. Which is why I’m endlessly grateful for kid-friendly vitamins, which serve as a supplement safety net to ensure little ones—and teens alike—are getting at least SOME actual nutrients amidst all that powdered cheese.
The chalky Flintstone vitamins of our youth (remember those?!) got a glow-up: Now, there are low-sugar gummies that still taste like candy, vitamin powders to swirl into smoothies and even kid-friendly probiotics (because sadly, your toddler’s dirt-eating habits don’t count). It all depends on your child’s age and tastes.
But how do you know which supplement or formula to choose for your child? “There’s no one-size-fits-all response [to this question],” notes Dr. Alice Merkrebs, a pediatrician in Newburyport, MA. “Each child is different and therefore their individual needs and treatment plans will vary.” In general, kids who eat a well-rounded diet don’t need a daily vitamin. “But there are certain cases where a child may need a specific nutrient, such as when targeting a deficiency (like vitamin D) or bolstering the immune system,” says Dr. Merkrebs. There’s also something to be said for taking a vitamin a few times a week—just when you feel like you want to fill in the gaps.
“Overall, the nutrients that help build bones and promote brain development are especially important in childhood,” she notes. That means vitamin D, minerals such as magnesium and calcium (especially if your kiddo doesn’t do dairy), and omega-3 oils from algae or fish. The benefit of taking a multivitamin is that they usually contain many/all of those nutrients in one convenient package.
We’ve rounded up a few of our fave mom-approved vitamins for kids of all ages.
Found one you like? Be sure to touch base with your child’s doc during their next well-check before adding a supplement/vitamin to your child’s diet.
Best Vitamins for Babies
Babies who are exclusively breastfed and those who are partially breastfed should take a supplemental form of vitamin D, as it’s a nutrient that’s inefficiently passed through breastmilk, according to the Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), who recommends 400 IU per day beginning from the first few days of life. A liquid drop of vitamin D suspended in olive or coconut oil is an easy format—you can place a single drop on your nipple right before breastfeeding or add one drop to a bottle of pumped milk. Continue this until baby is weaned, notes AAP. We love Nordic Naturals’ Baby Vitamin D3 formula, which contains 400 IU in one drop and is formulated with just two ingredients: vitamin D3 and organic extra virgin olive oil.
For little ones over 6 months of age, a supplemental source of omega-3 fatty acids (specifically DHA) can be helpful for brain and eye development. The AAP recommends 200-300mg of DHA per day (the amount in one to two servings of fish per week) for breastfeeding mamas, but if you’re not big on fish, that can be hard to meet. Smallfolk’s plant-based DHA from algae oil is a good alternative, providing 300mg of DHA and 150mg of EPA, another omega-3 fatty acid. The vegan formula comes in a dropper bottle and has just four ingredients: algae oil, rosemary leaf extract, vitamin E, and organic strawberry flavor. A vegan source of omega-3 means you don’t have to worry about high levels of mercury and other heavy metals as is common in some products which source their oil from larger fish.
Best Vitamins for Toddlers
The Smarty Pants Toddler Formula is a low-sugar gummy option your kiddos will absolutely EAT UP—meaning no battles to get them to take their vitamins. The toddler formula is especially made for kids age 2-3, and contains vitamins A, C, D, E, K and a range of Bs, plus minerals like choline, iodine and zinc. It also packs in 100mg of omega-3s, all in a soft, chewy gummy. My favorite thing about Smarty Pants is that they use methylated forms of B vitamins (like folate [B9] and B12), which makes them easier for the body to absorb and utilize (i.e., they actually work). With just 2g of sugar in three gummies, you can rest easy knowing these are a slightly sweet treat with lots of added benefit.
Adding a probiotic to your child’s breakfast checks the box to help keep little tummies happy—in one tasty, chewable format. Culturelle Kids packs in 5 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, which has been well-studied for immune and digestive support. The berry-flavored chewable tablet is gluten-free and vegan, too, and made without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. For busy toddlers on-the-go, Culturelle is a smart choice to help them keep moving. Be sure to include it as part of a balanced diet with other probiotic foods, such as yogurt (from cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or plant-based) and kefir.
Best Vitamins for School Age Kids
Elderberry is highly lauded for its immune-modulating and antioxidant properties and is commonly used to fight the common cold—ideal for the approaching back-to-school season. Consider it part of your back-to-school shopping list. Elderberries have a long and storied history of use in traditional cultures as a health tonic. Gaia Herbs’ kid-friendly gummies are super convenient, snackable goodies made with organic elderberry extract and concentrate and are free of refined sugar—instead, they’re made with a combination of apple pectin and lemon juice for natural sweetness. Each gummy is equal to 3 grams of elderberry, and they’re vegan, dairy-free, nut-free, gluten-free and soy-free. Kids can chew one gummy daily for prevention and two gummies in acute circumstances.
Hoping to give your school-age kid a boost a few times a week, without having to nag them about remembering to take a daily supplement? Try a multivitamin powder that you can stir or blend into juice or a smoothie here and there. Made from fruit and veggies, MegaFood Kids Daily Multi Powder is made with real food and added nutrients, which is non-GMO-verified and gluten-, dairy- and soy-free. The formula contains 21 vitamins and minerals, plus an antioxidant-rich whole-fruit blend of oranges, cranberries, blueberries, and turmeric. Reviewers note it has an earthy smell, but that it mixes well with orange juice or in a berry smoothie. With no sweeteners or artificial anything, it definitely goes down easy.
Best Vitamins for Teens
Mary Ruth Organics is beloved by holistic health practitioners for their lineup of liquid vitamins, but we’re partial to their vegan gummies—which are great for any teen who’s going vegan or plant-based. As vitamin D and vitamin B12 are difficult to get from plant foods, a supplement is usually warranted. Make sure your teen is filling any dietary gaps with a bioavailable (easily absorbable) vegan supplement on the daily. The gummies are made without gelatin; and the vitamin D is sourced from lichen. Organic, methylated, non-GMO, and sugar-free, even the most sensitive kids can try this product. It’s actually safe for ages 2 and up, but I’ve found that both teens and adults still looooove their gummy vitamins.
Rainbow Light is well-known for their food-based, affordable line of supplements (I’m a big fan of their prenatal, if you’re in the market), and their teen formula is a great blend of essential vitamins and minerals plus probiotics and botanicals. For the over-booked teen who’s in need of an all-in-one, look no further. Teens can take one to three tablets daily, depending on their energy needs and stress levels. Reviewers especially love the herbal-medicine-based “DermaComplex” for its effects on acne and other skin conditions. “My daughter has been taking for about 2 weeks now, we both have noticed changes with her acne. Breakouts are starting to clear up and fewer new ones are appearing. My daughter has been fighting a bad case of acne for over a year and I’ve spent hundreds of dollars buying products and on skin care consultations, this is the best thing we’ve found that actually works for her,” notes T. Price on Amazon.
Looking for more stellar mom approved kid gear? We’ve got you covered.