Calcium for children
Calcium is needed for growing and building strong bones and teeth during childhood. Our bones hold on to most of the calcium in our body. As much as 99% of the body's calcium is found in the bones. This needs to be ‘topped-up’ daily from our diet. If we don't have enough calcium in childhood, we may be at risk of weak bones and fractures in later life.
How much calcium is needed daily?
The amount of calcium needed each day from food depends on the age of the child:
- 1 to 3 years: 500mg
- 4 to 8 years: 700mg
- 9 to 11 years: 1000mg
- 12 to 18 years: 1300mg.
Foods rich in calcium
Here is a guide of how much calcium is in these calcium-rich food sources:
- Milk: 270mg in 250mL or 1 cup whole milk
- Soy milk, fortified with calcium: 300mg in 250mL or 1 cup
- Cheddar cheese and other hard cheeses: 320mg in 40g
- Yoghurt: 240–340mg in 200g tub of yoghurt.
Foods with calcium in smaller amounts
These foods also contain small amounts of calcium. Try adding them to dishes to boost the calcium in the meal.
- Dried figs and apricots
- Soybeans, chick peas
- Sesame seeds or sesame seed paste (tahini)
- Nuts or nut butters (almond and brazil nuts)—whole nuts are only suitable for children over 3 years with adult supervision
Tips to increase calcium intake
- Offer a milk drink daily rather than sweetened cordials or juices.
- Try breakfast cereal with milk as a snack at any time.
- Add yoghurt to milk for a delicious smoothie, or mix with fruit for a snack.
- Make iceblocks by freezing milk or yoghurt blended with fruit.
- Choose desserts made with milk (e.g. rice puddings, custards, or milk jellies).
- Try yoghurt as a salad dressing, in dips, in pasta dishes or as an alternative to sour cream.
Getting enough vitamin D is important for bones, too. It helps the body absorb calcium from food. Sunlight is a good source of vitamin D in Australia. Most people get enough vitamin D during normal daily activities. To get enough vitamin D you need to expose your hands, face and uncovered arms for about 5 to 15 minutes on most days of the week. Not enough vitamin D can cause rickets, a condition causing bone and muscle weakness. There are small amounts of vitamin D in foods such as oily fish (salmon, herring, and mackerel), eggs and foods fortified with vitamin D.
Talk to your doctor or dietitian if you are concerned your young child is not getting enough calcium or vitamin D. A dietitian can help you to make sure your child is getting enough calcium in their diet.
Information from this fact sheet is drawn from:
- Nutrition Education Materials Online, 2009, Calcium for children.
This is a consensus document from Queensland Health dietitians and nutritionists. You can also read the full collection of NEMO fact sheets and the disclaimer.
- National Health and Medical Research Council, 2012, Australian dietary guidelines.
This information is also the result of input and effort from many health professionals in Queensland. Their assistance with the content is greatly appreciated.
This information is provided as general information only and should not be relied upon as professional or medical advice. Professional and medical advice should be sought for particular health concerns or events. Best efforts have been used to develop this information, which is considered correct and current in accordance with accepted best practice in Queensland as at the date of production. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not accept liability to any person for the information provided in this fact sheet nor does it warrant that the information will remain correct and current. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not promote, endorse or create any association with any third party by publication or use of any references or terminology in this fact sheet.