It is very common for children to become dehydrated. First, it’s difficult to get them to drink water. Second, with their high energy levels and activities, they lose a lot of water from their body. Being well hydrated improves mood, memory, and attention in children and can combat fatigue.
One of the best ways to hydrate is by drinking water. All living things need water to survive. Plain water is the best drink choice for kids. It’s good for the body – keeps joints, bones, and teeth healthy, helps the blood circulate, and can help kids maintain a healthy weight into adulthood.
How much water do children need?
It varies by age. Following is a breakdown of averages:
6 months: intro to water, only about 4-8oz. per day until a year old
1-3 years: approx. 4 cups of beverages per day, including milk or water
4-8 years: approx. 5 cups of beverages per day, including milk or water
8+ years: 7-8 cups daily
These amounts vary by individual and should be adjusted based on activity level and environmental conditions like heat and humidity.
If you struggle getting your child to drink water – there are several tricks to make it seem more appealing:
- Infuse water with lemons, berries, cucumbers, or mind
- Eat fruits and veggies with high water content like cucumbers, iceberg lettuce, celery, watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, and grapefruit
- Freeze fruit inside ice cubes and add the cubes to your water
- Find water bottles/cups that are fun to use
- Make your own popsicles with pureed fruit
Drinks to limit
Sugary drinks – limit sugar-sweetened beverages as much as possible – including sports drinks, juice cocktails, soda, lemonade, and sweetened water. They discourage the habit of drinking plain water and can add a significant amount of sugar. It can leave them craving more sugar and lead to weight gain, dental cavities, diabetes, and more.
Juice – even 100% juice should be strictly limited as they are high in sugar and calories and low in the healthy fiber found in whole fruit.
Flavored milk – Flavored milk is typically loaded with sugar and processed ingredients – read the label for details.
Artificially sweetened drinks – including drinks sweetened with Stevia – health risks associated with artificial sweeteners are still not fully understood and can cause long-term issues. In addition, the very high level of sweetness can trigger the desire for more sugary drinks/foods
Signs of Dehydration
- For babies – fewer wet diapers, overly sleepy, sunken soft spot on the head, no tears when crying
- Young children – dry lips or sticky mouth, less or dark urination, sleepy and irritable, flushed skin
- Teens – dry lips or mouth, lightheadedness, cramps, thirst, dark or less urine, headache, rapid pulse, flushed skin, feeling excessively hot or cold. For teens, it is critical to stay hydrated during sports, exercise or heat.
Water intake requirements increase with exercise. Children 9-12 years old need to drink about 3-8oz of water every 20 minutes to stay hydrated. Teens need to drink 34-50oz per hour. It’s important to keep hydrated before, during and after exercise.
If vigorous exercise extends beyond 1 hour in a day, or your child sweats excessively, electrolyte supplement may be needed. For a natural electrolyte beverage, add lemon and a few dashes of sea salt to your water.
Staying properly hydrated keeps the body and mind running efficiently and feeling strong. Serve water with meals and snacks, and take those extra few minutes to pack the water bottles before your family heads out the door. Helping your children choose water first, and modeling this choice yourself, builds healthy habits that will pay dividends for a lifetime!