Magnesium for Kids: Can Children Take Magnesium?

magnesium for kids magnesium for kids

If you take magnesium supplements yourself, you might wonder: can my child take magnesium supplements, too? In most cases, the answer is yes! In fact, many children should, as growing kids and teens are extra vulnerable to magnesium deficiency. However, there are a few important things to keep in mind when giving your child magnesium supplements. Here’s the full lowdown on magnesium for kids…

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in over 300 processes in the human body. In growing kids and teenagers, it plays a vital role in the healthy development of muscles, nerves, and bones. It’s also heavily involved in regulating sleep and mood — two things most parents are used to battling with! And because magnesium is involved in brain function, heart health, and energy metabolism, it’s also critical for helping kids to power through busy days of school, sports, and socializing. 

How much magnesium do kids need?

In children, magnesium needs vary by age. The National Institute of Health sets out the following daily magnesium requirements:

Birth to 6 months30 mg*30 mg*
7–12 months75 mg*75 mg*
1–3 years80 mg80 mg
4–8 years130 mg130 mg
9–13 years240 mg240 mg
14–18 years410 mg360 mg400 mg360 mg

*Adequate Intake (AI)

How do I know if my child has magnesium deficiency?

The main cause of magnesium deficiency is diet. Lots of magnesium-rich foods, like spinach, are notoriously unpopular with kids, so if you have a fussy eater, magnesium deficiency is a strong possibility. Then there’s also the issue of food quality. Modern farming methods have depleted the magnesium content in our food supply, so even if your kid loves their veggies, there’s probably not as much magnesium on their plate as you’d hope. 

Exercise increases magnesium needs, so athletic kids are at higher risk of deficiency. Stress can also deplete magnesium levels, so if your child has had a difficult time lately, they’re also at risk. That can include anything from exam stress, falling out with friends, or worrying about a sick relative, to trauma, divorce, or bereavement. 

Certain illnesses and medications can also cause deficiency, either by affecting magnesium absorption or increasing magnesium loss. For example, chronic digestive issues can cause malabsorption in the gut, while diabetes can cause excessive loss through the urine. 

Common signs of magnesium deficiency to look for in your kids include: 

  • Poor sleep. 
  • Fatigue or low energy. 
  • Constipation.
  • Loss of appetite. 
  • Nausea. 
  • Muscle weakness or cramps. 
  • Forgetfulness or trouble concentrating at school. 
  • Unusual irritability, tearfulness, or “not seeming themselves”. 

What’s the best way to boost my child’s magnesium?

The best way to boost your child’s magnesium levels is by filling their diet with magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens (check out our mega list for inspiration). We know it can be a battle getting kids to eat their greens, but don’t worry! There are lots of kid-friendly options on the list too, like cheese, yogurt, bananas, peanut butter, and dark chocolate. You can also try swapping favorites like white bread, pasta, or rice for whole-grain equivalents. 

What are the benefits of magnesium supplements for kids?

Despite your best efforts, some kids are just natural-born pros when it comes to avoiding healthy foods! Others simply need more magnesium than their diet can provide due to stress, heavy exercise, or a period of growth. Whatever the reason, magnesium supplements can help.

Here are just some of the benefits of magnesium supplements for kids…

1. Focus and attention

“She’s very smart but has trouble staying focused.” If you’re used to hearing this from your child’s teachers, a magnesium supplement may be able to help. 

Cognitive functions, like focus and attention, depending on a) healthy neurons (brain cells) and b) the neurotransmitters that help them to communicate with each other. Magnesium is essential for both, so deficiency can leave your child struggling to concentrate and getting easily distracted. 

In fact, one study reported magnesium deficiency in 72% of children suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and found that cognitive function improved in children who were given magnesium supplements. Another study found that, when given magnesium supplements, children with ADHD experienced less hyperactivity. 

2. Mood 

It’s common for kids to struggle with big emotions, and teenagers can be notoriously grumpy! But if you’re regularly dealing with major outbursts or wild mood swings, your child might be dealing with a magnesium deficiency. 

Those neurotransmitters we mentioned earlier? One of them is serotonin. It plays a huge role in mood and mental health, and we need magnesium to create it. That might explain why magnesium deficiency is often found in people who are anxious or depressed, and why supplementation has been shown to improve symptoms of both

It goes without saying that no supplement is a substitute for professional mental health care, especially for young people. If your child is showing serious emotional distress, the first course of action is always to see a professional. However, if your child is otherwise well and simply struggles with mood regulation, magnesium supplements may be a helpful option. 

3. Sleep 

If your child has trouble sleeping, you’ll know that the effects can extend into the next day with low energy, poor mood, and difficulty staying focused. One of magnesium’s best-known benefits is sleep, so it could be a solution for kids (and parents!) who are struggling to catch those zzz’s. 

Magnesium helps to relax restless muscles and regulates the hormones involved in the natural sleep-wake cycle. It also acts on receptors for GABA, a neurotransmitter that calms the brain to prepare your little one for sleep. One type of magnesium, called magnesium glycinate, has been shown to make people fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and feel more rested and energized the next day.

Learn more about magnesium for sleep.

4. Energy 

Kids need bundles of energy to grow, learn and play. However, plenty of magnesium is required to metabolize food and turn it into usable energy, so a magnesium deficiency can make it hard for your kid to keep up. 

This is especially true if your child plays sports. The body needs up to 20% more magnesium during exercise in order to fuel the muscles and perform at its best. Magnesium is also important for clearing out waste products from the muscles, helping your child to heal, grow and come back stronger for their next big game. 

5. Bone development 

Did you know that around half of the skeleton you have now was developed in your teenage years alone?! Magnesium is essential for the healthy development of bones all throughout childhood, but the teen years are an especially important period of growth. 

Around half of the magnesium in your teen’s body will be found in the bones, where it’s needed for strength and stability. Magnesium also helps to ensure that all that calcium you give them can get to where it’s needed — the bones and teeth. Without adequate magnesium, calcium ends up in the soft tissues instead, where it can build up and cause other health problems.  

6. Growing pains 

Because magnesium is so important to the muscles, a deficiency can leave your child with aches, cramps, or restless legs, especially during growth spurts. Magnesium supplements are well-known for relaxing the muscles and are often recommended for people with muscular pain, including children.

7. Immune health 

Feel like your kid catches every bug around? That’s because the immune systems of younger children and toddlers haven’t yet fully matured, leaving them more vulnerable than us to infections.

One of the nutrients needed for developing a healthy immune system is — you guessed it! — magnesium. Not only does it help to create the defenders that protect your little one from infections, but research shows that certain immune cells can only eliminate infections when there’s enough magnesium present. 

Are magnesium supplements safe for my child?

So you know the benefits of magnesium supplements, but you’ll naturally wonder: are magnesium supplements safe for kids? The answer is yes, most children can take magnesium supplements safely. There are a few things to keep in mind though. 

First, if your child has a health condition or takes medications, you should always ask your doctor before giving them supplements of any kind, including magnesium. There are two reasons for this: 

  1. Magnesium can interact with some medications or affect how they’re metabolized in the body. That might mean the effect of the medication is stronger or weaker than it’s meant to be. 
  2. Some conditions make it hard for your child’s body to control its magnesium levels, so a supplement can put them at risk of hypermagnesemia, or too much magnesium. 

The second thing to keep in mind is that children require less magnesium than adults. Most supplements are formulated at adult dosages, so giving them your own magnesium supplements could be risky. It’s best to buy a supplement that’s either a) formulated especially for children or b) divided into very small doses so that you can adjust the dose for your child. Refer to the table below or speak to your doctor to work out the appropriate dose for your child.

Birth to 6 months30 mg*30 mg*
7–12 months75 mg*75 mg*
1–3 years80 mg80 mg
4–8 years130 mg130 mg
9–13 years240 mg240 mg
14–18 years410 mg360 mg400 mg360 mg

*Adequate Intake (AI)

Do magnesium supplements for kids have any side effects? 

Provided that you give your child an age-appropriate dose of magnesium, the risk of side effects is low. Exceeding the recommended dose is unlikely to be dangerous, but can increase the risk of uncomfortable side effects like stomach cramps, nausea, or diarrhea. If your child experiences this, it can usually be resolved by lowering the dose. However, if you’re concerned that your child has taken too much magnesium, they’re experiencing worrying side effects, or the side effects aren’t going away, call your doctor or emergency services.

What’s the best way to give my child magnesium supplements?

You can buy magnesium supplements in many formats, but kids are often reluctant to take liquids, powders, or tablets. Magnesium gummies, on the other hand, look and taste like their favorite sweets, so most kids are happy to chomp away on them! (NOTE: For that same reason, it’s a good idea to keep them out of sight and reach!)