Knowing which toddler vitamins, supplements, and immune boosters to give your toddler is complicated, so to help you sort through the research (and the marketing and bright packaging), this post is here to help.
Do you use toddler vitamins for your little ones? Are you wondering if you should start—or if you’re buying the best one? This is a complicated topic and it comes up whenever we have sick kids. Because no parent wants to see their child unwell…and little ones can bring home lots of germs from daycare and preschool. Toddler vitamins and supplements seem like something that might help…but do they? (Updated January 2018)
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. (Not to mention the logistical challenges of taking time off from work.)
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. Here’s the scoop on whether the common ways we all try to boost immunity actually help. And what we can do to help keep our kids healthy.
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 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.
What are the best toddler vitamins?
If you decide that your child isn’t eating a balanced diet and might not be getting the nutrients they need from their food, first, talk to your pediatrician first. And know that supplements, including toddler vitamins, aren’t approved by the FDA, so you really need to trust the brand you buy, whether or not it’s an organic vitamin.
(Related: Toddler serving sizes are smaller than you might realize so they might be getting plenty!)
Be sure to read the serving size thoroughly since they vary widely—and bring it to your pediatrician for help if you aren’t sure of the right dose. If you decide to offer a multi-vitamin, some of the best toddler vitamins (in my opinion) are from brands including The Honest Company, Zarbees and Olly.
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. Ask your pediatrician for their thoughts if you are considering a probiotic.
Two brands to try 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.
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. (You can try it in the Mango Kefir Smoothie shown above.)
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, tomatoes, and more. (You can also try 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 and has a sore throat, try adding 1/2 teaspoon of honey to warm water to make honey tea. 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.
If you’re looking for another toddler-safe throat soother, try these 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 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.
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).
Talk to your doctor about whether it’s too late to get one this year if you haven’t yet.
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.
This is likely the single best thing you can do to keep your kids healthy.
At many daycares, they wash hands before and after each activity change, upon arrival, and before heading out the door to avoid spreading germs. You may also want to have their kids wash again when they get home and change into clean clothes.
Consider having a separate school lovely that stays there to avoid bringing germs back and forth and be sure to wash it regularly.
At home when washing hands, we sing the ABCs or Happy Birthday (sometimes twice if she goes too fast!) and use warm water and regular soap. When we’re out and about, particularly during and after a visit to the library, I use this Honest Company Spray Hand Sanitizer (which doesn’t have the same concerns as antibacterial soap).
Did you know that your toddler needs sleep to stay healthy?
Ah, sleep. 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 taking steps to help them get more. Move bedtime earlier (sleep often begets sleep!), create a more concrete bedtime routine, and insist on afternoon rest time if they’ve ditched their naps. (It’s hard, I know!)
Bottomline on toddler vitamins, supplements, and boosting immunity
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. It’s so hard to feel powerless when our little ones aren’t feeling well, so I too often have the impulse to do something, anything, to help.
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.