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Does your child need a multivitamin? Here’s what the experts say

Parents of picky eaters, you might be surprised.

Do I need to give my child a multivitamin?

"Should I give my child a multivitamin?" is one of the most common questions I get asked by moms as a pediatrician.

The question often comes up at well-child visits, as part of a conversation about how to improve picky eating. Vitamins also come up at sick visits, especially when a child seems to be sick all the time with colds and coughs—it's normal to wonder whether a daily multivitamin might "boost" a child's immune system to prevent them from missing school.

Are vitamins a quick fix for most healthy kids?

The short answer is no. If your child is eating a variety of foods and is not on a restricted diet, then extra vitamin supplementation is not needed. In most cases a daily vitamin for kids is not necessary. Instead, focus on serving healthy foods most of the time.

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Can vitamins hurt a child?

A one-a-day multivitamin for extra insurance won't do harm (except for the expense). But mega dosing on vitamins—particularly fat-soluble vitamins like A,D, E and K that can build up in the body—can cause toxicity. So more is definitely not always better.

In addition, giving a vitamin supplement is not a pass for your child to then eat unhealthy processed snacks and fast food. The biggest concern with the average child's diet isn't the lack of vitamins (even sugary breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamins), but that the typical American diet is low in fiber, fruits and vegetables, and high in added sugar and unhealthy fats.

That said, there are a few nutrients that are often lacking in many children's diets and could use a boost—ideally through nutrition rather than through taking a vitamin:

Iron

Iron is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in kids of all ages, but particularly in preemies, breastfed babies, toddlers who drink a lot of milk, growing teens and girls who menstruate. Very low iron can affect neurological development and can lead to iron deficiency anemia, which can cause a child to be pale, low energy and tired, with headache and fatigue.

There are many foods rich in iron, including eggs and meats such as turkey, chicken, liver and fish. Iron is also found in dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, seeds and dried fruits. Here's an important tip: the type of iron found in plant-based foods (known as non-heme iron) is better absorbed if eaten at the same time as some vitamin C. So serve beans with sliced tomatoes, or even broccoli and bell peppers to dip in hummus.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin important for bone growth and development and to prevent a disease called rickets. You may be aware that the body can make vitamin D, however sunlight is needed, so depending on where you live, the amount of sun exposure your child gets, the season and even how much sunscreen your child wears, your kids probably still need to ingest some sources of Vitamin D.

Breastfed babies need additional Vitamin D as it is not as readily absorbed from breastmilk (if you have questions or concerns speak with your pediatrician). For older children, food sources of vitamin D include beef, liver, eggs and fish such as salmon, as well as Vitamin D-fortified foods including cereals, dairy products (such as milk and yogurt) and non-dairy milk (such as soy and almond milk).

Calcium

Calcium is a mineral that's important for strong bones and teeth, as well as for the functioning of the muscles, heart and nervous system. Dairy products (like cheese, yogurt and milk) as well as non-dairy milks are very good sources of calcium. When serving fortified non-dairy milks, make sure to shake well, as the calcium needs to be dispersed throughout the liquid before pouring—otherwise it settles at the bottom of the container. Other non dairy sources of calcium include seafood, dark green leafy vegetables, tofu, legumes, almonds and dried fruit. Many cereals and breads are fortified with calcium as well.


Looking at your child's overall diet for the week—rather than just one day—is a helpful way to assess the nutrient value of what they are eating. After keeping a food diary for a week, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that with added nutritious snacks, your child may be meeting their nutritional requirements. Reach out to your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child's overall diet. They can evaluate and determine with you if added supplementation is needed.


A version of this post originally appeared on Dr. Jen's website.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Every parent can relate to these funny tweets about the presidential debate

If you've refereed siblings you can relate to Chris Wallace.

Wendi Aarons/Screenshot

The first presidential debate was painful to watch for many reasons. The sitting president of the United States failed to condemn white supremacy when asked, and while both President Trump and Joe Biden spoke nearly constantly, they didn't say much of value.

It was disappointing for stressed parents who would have rather heard more about policy and the future of America instead of watching two men interrupt and insult each other.

The candidates spent a significant amount of time talking over each other, asking the other to shut up and deflecting questions from moderator Chris Wallace, whose position was instantly relatable to any parent who has had to ask their children to stop squabbling at the dinner table.

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These viral tweets sum up the debate perfectly:

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