Why is it important for children to build strong bones?children

The best time for your child to build up his or her bone bank account is from childhood to young adulthood. Bones build at the fastest rate between the ages of 9 and 18 with peak bone mass reached between the ages of 16 and 25. Peak bone mass is when bones reach their maximum strength and density. When peak bone mass is reached, bones contain the most bone mineral (mainly calcium) than at any other time in life. The skeleton has been compared to a savings bank. The more calcium that is deposited in the bones during youth and young adulthood, the more calcium there is to draw when needed later in life. That is why it is important to “invest” in building peak bone mass during youth. There are actions that you can take to help your child reach his or her peak bone mass.

How much calcium does my child need?

Getting the recommended about of calcium each day is important to build strong bones throughout life. It is important to know how much calcium your child needs each day. The calcium recommendations change in the early years to reflect your growing child’s needs. The maximum need for calcium is between the ages of 9 and 18 when the bone bank is building up at the fastest rate.

Daily Calcium Recommendations
Age (years)Calcium (mg*/day)
1 – 3700 mg
4 – 8800 mg
9 – 181300 mg
*mg= milligrams (a metric unit used to measure weight)
(Institute of Medicine , 2010)

How can I make sure that my child gets the recommended amount of calcium?

There are many easy ways to help your child get the recommended calcium in his or her diet. Children can get calcium by consuming three to four servings of calcium-rich foods daily. The body uses calcium best when it is spaced through the day. It is a good idea to include a calcium source at each meal or snack. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, calcium-rich non-dairy foods, and calcium-fortified foods.

Your child can get the recommended calcium in his or her diet, even if he or she is lactose intolerant, allergic to milk, or following a strict vegetarian diet. If your child has lactose intolerance, lactase enzyme replacement taken along with dairy products or dairy products with lactase enzyme added are ways to get all of the calcium in dairy foods without the symptoms.

If your child is allergic to milk or is following a strict vegetarian diet, he/she can get calcium by consuming non-dairy beverages with calcium
added (such as fortified almond beverages, fortified coconut milk, fortified rice beverages,fortified soy beverages or fortified citrus juices among others) as well as calcium rich non-dairy foods. Make sure to shake calcium fortified beverages before serving to prevent the calcium from settling on the bottom of the container.

How much vitamin D do children need to build strong bones?

Children up to 12months need 400 IU (international units) or 10 mcg (micrograms) of vitamin D each day. From age 1 to 70, daily requirement of vitamin D is 600 IU of vitamin D or 600 micrograms. An 8 ounce cup of milk provides 100 IU or 2.5 mcg of vitamin D along with other bone building nutrients. Some orange juice, almond, coconut, rice, and soy beverages have 100 IU of vitamin D added in each 8 ounce cup. It is important to read the food labels to make sure that vitamin D is added. If your child drinks 6 cups of these beverages in a day, he or she is getting the recommended amount of vitamin D. However, it is often difficult for children and teens to reach the 600 IU or 15 mcg of vitamin D recommended each day from the foods they eat. It is important to talk to your child’s healthcare provider to find out if a multivitamin containing vitamin D is recommended.

Why is physical activity important to build strong bones?

Regular physical activity is necessary to build strong bones. It is known that the greatest impact of exercise on the skeleton occurs in children before puberty but the benefits of exercise continue throughout life. Weight-bearing exercise places physical stress on the body. Bones, like muscles, respond to stress by becoming bigger and stronger. On the other hand, like muscles, bones weaken if not used. Therefore, it is important that you encourage your child to be active for at least 60 minutes each day. Physical activity that involves jumping is one of the best ways for the best ways for your child to increase his or her bone density.

How can I help protect my child’s bones?

Safety strategies to protect bones are important for children of all ages. It is crucial for all children to protect their bones and overall health by wearing seatbelts in any moving vehicle and by using appropriate protective equipment when participating in sports.