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How to build strong bones in kids: A guide for parents

Childhood is the time when you lay the foundation stone of your mental, emotional and physical health. Children, however, are unaware of how to make a healthy start. This responsibility, thus, falls upon the parents. As a parent or guardian, you should ensure that your kids are receiving sufficient nutrients needed for their growth. In this article, Dr Gourav Jandial – best paediatric orthopaedic doctor in Gurgaon will explore one development aspect – How to build strong bones in kids?

Our bones start building their strength in childhood and teen years. Approximately, 95% of bone mass is built by the age of 20 years. This time is crucial for the overall internal development of a child. Though we continue to build healthy bones throughout our lives, the ability of our lives to add to this strength declines over time. 

One of the important facts about muscles and bones for kids is that a better bone building ability in childhood leads to better bone strength in adulthood. It is, therefore, essential to build strong bones in kids from an early age. 

Here are some expert-approved tips for strong bones in children. 

Tips to build strong bones in kids

Children are quick learners and pick up the habits of adults they live with. The imitation capability of young kids is extraordinary and invites effort from the parents. The best tip on how to build strong bones in kids is to offer them a healthy lifestyle by implementing one. 

You can inculcate bone strengthening foods in your meals to achieve a healthy living status. While making a nutritious meal plan for your kid, make sure to add plenty of the following given nutrients. 

Calcium

Calcium is a super-nutrient to strengthen your kids bones. The mineral responsible for building and maintaining the mass of your bones is calcium. The more calcium you eat, the stronger your bones become. 

Your body’s calcium requirement fluctuate as you grow old. A child between the age group 4-8 years need nearly 1000 mg of calcium per day. While a child of 9-18 years old requires 1300 mg of calcium each day. 

Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt are good sources of calcium. Green leafy vegetables, soya drinks, bread, beans, lentils, almonds and fish are also rich in calcium. 

How to add calcium to your kid’s diet: Children are not fans of healthy foods, popularly known as picky-eaters. It may be difficult to get your child to each calcium-rich meals. You can make the intake of calcium more interesting for your child. For instance, you can give them cookies along with a glass of milk. Children have a special liking for cheese products such as pizza and pasta. You can also choose a flavourful variant of yogurt. 

Vitamin D

It is not enough to eat calcium-rich foods alone. The consumed calcium needs to be absorbed by our bodies. Vitamin D is an important nutrient required to build healthy bones. A deficiency of Vitamin D can lead to musculoskeletal problems in children such as rickets

The approximate unit of Vitamin D required by a kid and teenager is 600 IU per day

The best natural source of Vitamin D is sunlight. You should make sure that your kid is getting enough sun. This tip is crucial especially in today’s times when kids tend to spend more time indoors at their tablets and television. 

Bone strengthening foods rich in Vitamin D are salmon, egg yolks, mushrooms, milk, orange juice, cereal and oatmeal. 

How to add Vitamin D to your kid’s diet: You can plan outdoor activities with your kids to help them get sunlight. You can replace your child’s soda or milk with orange juice now and then. 

Magnesium

Magnesium is a vital mineral responsible for maintaining the density of your bones. A high bone density helps reduce the chances of bone fractures. Several studies have proved that magnesium also helps in the prevention of a popular musculoskeletal disorder – osteoporosis. 

 A young kid aged between 4-8 years should intake nearly 130 mg of magnesium per day. The daily allowance increases to 240 mg when a child reaches 9-18 years old. 

This mineral also helps in the regulation of calcium and Vitamin D. You can strengthen your kids bones by including these sources of magnesium in their diet – almonds, spinach, cashews, soy milk, peanut butter, potatoes, banana, cooked brown rice, breakfast cereals and more. 

How to add Magnesium to your kid’s diet: Most of the foods rich in magnesium are good substitutes of unhealthy snacks. 

Vitamin K

A regular administration of Vitamin K can increase bone density. It is useful in the metabolism of calcium and vitamin D in the bones. 

A deficiency in Vitamin K can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis. This mineral is significant for the regulating metabolism in the bone by activating proteins. 

For children aged 4-8 years, 55 mg of Vitamin K per day is sufficient while 60mg/day is enough for a child in the age group of 9-18 years. 

How to add Vitamin K to your kid’s diet: Try to make dishes from green leafy vegetables. Spinach, kale, broccoli, green beans, kiwi, cheese and peas are good sources of vitamin K. 

Facts about muscles and bones for kids

Here are some interesting facts about muscles and bones for kids:

  • There are about 650 muscles in your body.
  • Muscles and bones are attached with the help of tendons. 
  • Nearly 40% of your body weight is made up of muscles.
  • Muscles can only pull your bones, they can’t push them. 

Tips for strong bones 

Several other parenting tips for strong bones can be used by parents besides increasing the child’s intake of bone strengthening foods

1. Exercise more frequently: Our bones gain their strength with increased activity. Similar to muscles, your kids health bones will improve as much as he/she puts them to use. The strength of your bones increases when you put pressure on your bones by using your muscles.

A child’s potential for physical activity is better than an adult. Your kid will build strong bones if he/she does more weight-bearing activities. Running, walking, jumping and climbing are some top choices of exercise in children. You should maintain a good balance between your child’s screentime and physical activity. 

2. Avoid carbonated drinks: Most carbonated drinks have some quantity of phosphoric acid. This acid is harmful to a person’s bone health as it interrupts the process of calcium absorption. You should try to replace your kid’s soda with a healthful alternative such as orange juice. 

3. Teach them healthy lifestyle choices: Growing up, your child may make their own decisions and change their lifestyle habits. While a sense of liberation is important for your child’s personality development, you should ensure that he/she is not adapting wrong habits. It is especially crucial for teenagers. Smoking, alcohol consumption or leading a sedentary life are some habits that affect your bone health negatively. 

The concluding note 

By practising the above-given tips, you can help on how to build strong bones in kids. While bone health requires continuous attention, the early years of your life can help shape your future. 

For more tips on how to build strong bones in kids, you can book an appointment with Dr Gourav Jandial, leading paeditric orthopaedic doctor at the CK Birla Hospital. 

FAQs

Ques: At what age do children’s bones harden?

Ans: Children’s bones do not fuse until 1 or 2 years of age. 

Ques: Which foods are good for bone health in kids?

Ans: Dairy products, green leafy vegetables, soya beans, tofu, nuts, bread and fish are good foods for bone health. 

Ques: Which fruits are best for bone health?

Ans: Oranges, papaya, strawberries and pineapples are some great fruits for bones. 

Ques: Should I give my child calcium supplements?

Ans: It is not necessary to give your child supplements. You should aim to include calcium-rich foods in their diet. Give any supplements upon your doctor’s recommendation.  

Dr Gourav Jandial
Author: Dr Gourav Jandial
Dr Gourav Jandial is a highly trained and qualified paediatric orthopaedic surgeon in Gurgaon. His core area of expertise is paediatric orthopaedics which covers treatment for an array of orthopaedic deformities in children, including congential disorders. As an avid researcher in his field, Dr Gourav haas conducted an extensive study and co-authored numerous publications of clinical significance, acknowledged across Indian and international orthopaedic fraternity.
 
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