Childhood calcium requirements

a young girl with a glass of milk

Calcium is a must‐have nutrient in kids’ diets because it’s a key building block for strong, healthy bones and teeth, and is needed for the proper functioning of nerves and muscles. Nevertheless, many mums and dads won’t be aware of how much is enough for their growing kids. The recommended daily intake (RDI), or average daily requirements of calcium, varies according to age and provides a good guideline to help you ensure your child receives the correct amount of calcium they need each day for the best start in life.

Recommended calcium requirements throughout childhood

1‐3 yr 500 mg/day
4‐8 yr 700 mg/day
9‐11 yr 1,000 mg/day
12‐13 yr 1,300 mg/day
14‐18 yr 1,300 mg/day

It’s particularly important that certain groups meet their calcium needs including young children, as their skeletal tissue is constantly growing. Pre‐teens and teenagers are another important group because puberty prompts another growth spurt. If bones are strengthened with enough calcium, vitamin D and physical activity during the early years, they’ll become strong enough to reduce the risk of bone problems later in life. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that 70% of children are not meeting their recommended daily intake for calcium.

How can you ensure your kids get the calcium their bodies need?

Calcium is predominantly found in milk and milk‐based foods, with smaller amounts found in bony fish such as tuna and salmon, legumes, green leafy vegetables, some nuts and fortified products. The following table lists various foods and how much calcium they provide.

Food Approximate milligrams (mg) of calcium per serve
Milk (1 cup) 300mg
Yoghurt (200g tub) 300mg
Cheddar cheese (45g) 307mg
Mozzarella cheese (45g) 333mg
Sour cream (2 tablespoons) 31mg
Sardines canned in oil (85g) 325mg
Pink Salmon canned with bones (85g) 181mg
Food Approximate milligrams (mg) of calcium per serve
Plant Food(85g)
Tofu, made with calcium sulphate (1/2 cup) 138mg
Kale, raw, chopped (1 cup) 100mg
Bok choy, shredded (1 cup) 74mg
Broccoli, cooked (1 cup) 42mg
Almonds (x15) 40mg
Fortified foods
Calcium‐fortified soy milk (200mL) 300mg
Calcium fortified breakfast cereal (40g) 200mg
Calcium‐fortified orange juice (200mL) 160mg
Calcium‐fortified bread (2 slices) 200mg

To meet daily calcium requirements, most children need to consume between two and three serves of milk, milk products or calcium‐fortified alternatives. Green leafy veggies, salmon and sardines with soft edible bones, and almonds can also be included to help top up their calcium levels. If milk is removed from the diet due to an intolerance or another reason, it may be difficult for your child to obtain the amount of calcium they need to build a healthy skeleton.

Fussy eating habits can also pose a problem and may mean that your child isn’t getting what they need from their diet alone. In these instances, a specialised kids’ calcium supplement may be beneficial to support the needs of their active, growing bodies.