Dietitian Tips to Get Kids to Drink More Water
How to ensure your child is meeting their fluid requirements
Proper hydration plays a crucial role in maintaining the health and well-being of kids and teens, so it’s no wonder that many parents and caregivers are often worried about their child’s fluid intake! As a Pediatric Dietitian, I often get questions from parents about their child’s fluid intake and strategies to get them to drink more water throughout the day. Between busy schedules and navigating all the different beverage products out there, it can be challenging to know whether children are getting the fluids they need. In this blog post, I will review some general recommendations on fluid requirements as well as some practical tips to get your child to drink more water.
Why are fluids important for my child?
In addition to meals and snacks, it is important that kids and teens are offered plenty of fluids throughout the day. Fluids have a variety of functions in the body, including:
- Temperature regulation
- Digestion and maintaining regular bowel movements
- Transporting essential nutrients throughout the body
- Flushing waste products that the body doesn’t need
- Lubrication of eyes, joints, and other tissues
How much water does my child need in a day?
Fluid requirements can vary based on factors such as age, sex, activity level, weather, and illness. Below are general guidelines for fluid recommendations for kids and teens:
* 1 cup = 250 ml
Data obtained from Unlock Food (2021)
What are some signs that my child isn’t drinking enough water?
It is important to know the signs of dehydration in kids and teens. Signs and symptoms can vary based on whether a child is experiencing mild, moderate or severe dehydration.
A child or teen who is mildly dehydrated may experience an increase in thirst and/or have slightly less urine output than usual. However, symptoms such as dizziness, weakness and faint could indicate moderate to severe dehydration. For a complete list of possible signs of dehydration, refer to this page from My Health Alberta. Depending on the severity of your child’s symptoms, they may require medical attention.
Is water the best option for helping my child stay hydrated?
While there are a variety of other sources of hydration, water is the best choice for quenching your child’s thirst throughout the day. While sugar sweetened beverages can be enjoyed on occasion, it is best to limit how frequently they are offered. Drinks such as juice and pop, if consumed regularly, can lead to excess sugar intake which can cause tooth decay and displace other more nutritious foods.
Are Caffeinated Beverages Safe for Kids?
While caffeinated beverages are generally not recommended for children and adolescents up to 18 years of age, Health Canada suggests that caffeine intake no more than 2.5 mg per kg of body weight is generally considered safe.
For more information on caffeine, check out this blog post.
Tips to Get my Child to Drink More Water/Fluid?
1. Lead by example:
Like other healthy eating habits, children and teens learn best when they observe their parents and/or caregivers practicing them consistently. Model regular drinking patterns when you are with them, and consider discussing the benefits of drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day
2. Offer water regularly throughout the day:
The more accessible it is, the more likely your child will be willing to drink it. Keep water readily available as your child is engaging in their day-to-day activities (e.g. provide a glass of water with meals, while they are doing homework or while watching TV…etc.) You may also want to consider bringing water bottles when running daily errands to ensure water is readily available at all times
3. Take water breaks:
Like taking breaks for meals and snacks, try taking water breaks! Ask your child to take a quick pause from their play time and offer them some water. This is especially important during the summer months, as they will need more water when it is hot outside
4. Add flavour to their water by infusing fruits:
If plain water is unappealing to your child, try adding a splash of flavour by infusing fruits such as berries, citrus or cucumbers. You can also try freezing fruit in ice trays and add them to water for a fun twist! For more infused water ideas, check out this site for recipes.
5. Freeze it:
Popsicles can be a fun way for kids to get some extra fluids in! Check out this page for recipes for homemade popsicles
6. Offer water-rich fruits and veggies:
Water is not the only thing that can contribute to your child’s hydration. Fruits and vegetables can also help squeeze in some extra fluids. Consider offering fruits and vegetables with a high water content at meals and snacks, such as watermelon, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, grapes and oranges
7. Make drinking water fun with neat waterbottles and straws:
Get your child a fun water bottle, cup, or buy some fun straws to drink with. Sometimes, the simple act of drinking from a silly straw can make it more enjoyable for children!
8. Create a reward system:
Consider using a hydration tracker and set fluid goals with your child. Establish a reward system where your child receives small incentives or prizes, preferably unrelated to food, for meeting their fluid goals consistently and to help motivate them to drink more.
Remember that every child is different, and it may take some trial and error to find the strategies that work best for your child. By implementing these tips and making hydration a fun and engaging experience, you can help your child develop healthy hydration habits that will benefit them throughout their lives!
Need more support with ensuring your child is meeting their fluid requirements? Our team of Dietitians is here to help!
If you find it hard to “just follow the recommendations”, there’s probably more than meets the eye. Nutrition Counselling with a Registered Dietitian on our team can help you create and maintain steady, sustainable health changes.
Since 2000, 23 have supported people with nutrition education and practical meal planning ideas We can work with you to simplify an eating plan that helps you take charge of your eating and feel your best. Contact us below to see how we can help.
Why stop there? Learn more about nutrition and health with these blog posts:
Jamie Lee Kwong
Disordered Eating, Pediatrics, Family Meal Planning & Chronic Disease
Jamie will greet you with a warm and approachable smile that has a way of putting you at ease. You can count on her to be adaptive and collaborative in coming up with right-fit solutions that meet your health, mental health and family needs. She also specializes in Mental Health, Anti-inflammatory Eating, and Arthritis.