Should I give multivitamins to my preschooler?

Answer From Angela C. Mattke, M.D.

Most healthy children don't need multivitamins if they are growing at the typical rate and eating a variety of foods. Foods are the best source of nutrients: fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Regular meals and snacks can give all the nutrients most preschoolers need.

Kids between ages 3 and 5 typically may be interested in eating and mealtime one day and not the next. Many young children seem to be picky eaters. But they're likely still getting enough nutrients. Caregivers may aim to give kids a range of nutritious foods so that each meal has healthy choices. And in some cases, such as with cow's milk, food and drink are already fortified.

Also multivitamins do have some risks. Large doses of vitamins and minerals can cause problems such as an upset stomach or loose stools. If your child eats or drinks foods with added vitamins and minerals, read the labels. Make sure the total amount of those nutrients doesn't go over the safe limit for your child's age. And some vitamins and minerals can interact with medicines your child may take.

Talk with your child's health care provider if you're worried about whether your child is getting enough vitamins and minerals. A mineral or vitamin supplement might be helpful if your child has:

  • Low levels of vitamin D in the diet.
  • A delay in physical and developmental growth.
  • A chronic disease.
  • A diagnosis of lead poisoning.
  • A limited, or restrictive, diet.

Nutrition specialists, called dietitians, can help if you have questions about your child's diet. Based on dietary surveys, there are some nutrients caregivers might focus on more than others. For example, vitamin D may not be taken at suggested levels. For preschoolers, the daily amount is about 600 IUs. Calcium, potassium and dietary fiber are other nutrients that are usually underconsumed by people living in the United States.

If your child's health care provider suggests a multivitamin, choose one made for your child's age group. It shouldn't give more than 100% of the Daily Value of vitamins and minerals. And keep multivitamins out of your child's reach. If they taste and look like candy, make sure to tell your child that they can't be eaten like candy.


Angela C. Mattke, M.D.

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Dec. 28, 2022 See more Expert Answers