Staying hydrated is essential for healthy minds and bodies of all ages. The water we drink regulates body temperature and blood pressure, keeps muscles and joints moving, moves waste out of the body, and aids in digestion.
Hydration is especially important for children as they are more likely than adults to become dehydrated. Kids’ bodies don't cool down as efficiently as adults and they don’t always recognize that they’re thirsty.
Mild dehydration can cause tiredness, headaches, and irritability. More severe dehydration can cause symptoms such as lethargy, pale or sunken skin, and a rapid heartbeat or breathing. Severe dehydration may require a trip to the emergency room.
Tap Water is Best
Nothing hydrates your kids better than tap water. Tap water is a healthier choice than juice, sports drinks, or soda. These drinks are high in sugar and calories that kids don’t need and can contribute to obesity and tooth decay. Energy drinks are even worse. The large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants can be dangerous.
Tap water also costs much less than bottled water and other drinks. A gallon of tap water (128 oz.) costs less than one penny per gallon! A 20 oz. bottle of water from a convenience store costs around $1.50. Juice, soda, and sports drinks cost even more.
The amount of water that a child needs every day depends on their age, weight, and sex. Air temperature, humidity, activity level, and a child’s overall health affect daily water requirements, too.
A general guideline to follow for how much water your child needs is:
- 4 cups a day for children 5 to 8 years old
- 6 cups a day for children 8 to 12 years old
- 8 cups a day for children 13 years old and older
The more active kids are, the more water they need. Kids also need more water on hot, humid days or if they’re sick. Consult your pediatrician to be sure that your child is drinking the right amount of water.
Help your kids stay hydrated with these tips:
- Get a reusable water bottle that your child can carry at school and during activities.
- Encourage your child to drink water before, during, and after physical activity.
- Always offer water with meals and snacks and during activities.
- Be a role model! Make a point of drinking water with your kids.
If you find it hard to get your kids to drink plain water, try these tips:
- Add slices of fresh fruit or small amounts of 100% juice to water for flavor.
- Let your kids choose a fun water bottle or glass to drink from.
- Experiment with temperature. Try having a jug of water in the fridge, adding ice-cubes, or even warm water in winter.
- Include foods with high water content, like fruits and vegetables, in snacks and meals.