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
Tap water is the best source of hydration for kids. It's also 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 high amount of caffeine and other stimulants found in these beverages 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 varies depending on their age, weight, and sex. Weather conditions, activity level, and a child’s overall health affect daily water requirements, too.
The American Academy of Pediatrics makes the following recommendations for daily beverage intake:
- 1 to 4 cups a day for children 1 to 3 years old
- 1.5 to 5 cups a day for children 4 to 8 years old
- 5 to 8 cups a day for children 8 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 use 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.
- Offer foods with high water content, like fruits and vegetables, at snack and meal times.