By: Mel Hendrickson, BSN, RN, Director of Health Services, Penfield Children’s Center

In order for children to reach their full potential, it’s important for them to have strong bones. Good bone health throughout childhood actually impacts the health of your child’s bones in the future. In fact, bone density is mostly built during the child and teen years and the bone’s mass peaks in a person’s 20’s. At this age, your child’s bones will have reached their maximum strength. Because of this, it’s important to take care of your child’s bones at an early age.

What affects a child’s bone mass?

There are a variety of reasons why a child’s bone mass is more or less dense than another’s. For starters, gender and hormones play a role. While male and female children tend to develop similar bone mass, after puberty, boys typically develop denser bones than girls. In addition, girls who menstruate early tend to have more bone density than girls who get their periods later or who frequently miss their periods.

Other factors, such as diet and physical activity level play a crucial role in developing healthy bones.

Check out these 2 tips for helping your child grow strong bones for life:

  1. Serve your child food and drinks rich in calcium. Examples include beans, leafy green vegetables and dairy products. Kid-approved foods such as mac and cheese, pizza, smoothies and frozen yoghurt are all great sources of calcium. Make sure to bake your own mac and cheese and skip the powdered variety in order to get the most healthy bone-boosting nutrients. You can also add spinach and/or milk and yoghurt to smoothies for extra calcium. Calcium-fortified orange juice, almond butter, cottage cheese and broccoli are also great sources of calcium.
  1. Exercise! We all know that exercise is good for the body as a whole, but did you know it’s especially important for healthy bones? Climbing, running and jumping are all great activities for strengthening your child’s bones. Why? When your child participates in activities such as these, the force of gravity and his/her muscles put pressure on bones. While your bones are under pressure from these healthy activities, they become stronger. Encourage your child to get at least an hour of exercise or physical activity every day.

In addition to diet and exercise, it’s important to keep your child away from second-hand smoke and teach them about the dangers of smoking when they are young. Smoking damages the tissue inside bones and those who are exposed to smoke are at a greater risk for fracturing their bones.

What are your favorite kid-friendly recipes for encouraging healthy bone growth in your child?