Two multiracial girls sit in kitchen feels thirsty drink water

The Importance of Hydration in Children

Welcome to Summer, Families!  Summer brings longer days, warmer weather, and outside activities.  With children out of school and parents juggling work and child care or keeping the children busy at home, days are filled with endless activities and decisions.  Making time for appropriate hydration is not always a top priority.  However, if we do not drink enough fluids throughout the day, dehydration could set in.  Dehydration can cause some serious health concerns.  Did you know that our bodies consist of 60-70% of water?  We lose some of those fluids throughout the day through sweating, breathing, urinating, and bowel movements.  It is important to replace those fluids to avoid dehydration and ensure the best summer for you and your family. 

Why do we need water?

Here are just a few ways water supports your growing child’s body:

  • Supports the development and functioning of joints
  • Helps blood flow and carries nutrients and oxygen to cells
  • Assists in balancing body temperature
  • Aids in digestion and regularity of bowel movements
  • Maintains a healthy body weight while increasing metabolism
  • Improves mood, memory, and attention

Choosing water as your main beverage throughout the day is your best option as it has zero calories, no added sugars and most often it is FREE!

How much water should your child drink?

1-3 years, boys and girls4 cups*
4-8 years, boys and girls7 cups*
9-13 years girls/9-13 years boys9 cups/10 cups*
14-18 years girls/14-18 years boys10 cups/14 cups*
*pending the amount of physical activity & heatDrink more!

Father and son drinking water after fun day on basketball court
Father and son drinking water after fun day on basketball court

How to encourage your family to drink more water

The best way to get your child to drink water is to be a role model for them.  The more they see you do it, they will do it too!  Drinking water routinely and offering it at every opportunity with each meal and snack time, it will build a lifelong habit for your children.  It is important to mention that you should drink water before you feel thirsty.  Feeling thirsty is one of the first signs of dehydration.  Always have a water bottle close to you for a quick water fix.  Your family will want to choose water first if you try some of these tips:

  • Provide variety by adding fruit flavors like citrus, berries, melons, or even mint
  • Eat fruits and vegetables high in water content (see image below)
  • Freeze fruit inside of ice cube trays-include the children in the process to boost their interest and willingness to try the flavored ice cubes
  • Use special cups or water bottles specific to each child’s interests
  • Make your own popsicles or smoothies with pureed fruit-again include the children in the preparation,
  • Offer a drink of half seltzer and half 100% juice as an alternative to sugary beverages.

Choosing water first and modeling this choice will build healthy habits in your children that will last a lifetime!

Foods Rich in Water Illustration
Foods Rich in Water

Watch for signs of dehydration

Dehydration is when your body does not have enough water to work properly.  As mentioned above, our bodies are mostly made of water and we need it for so many important reasons and bodily functions.  Dehydration can happen in a matter of hours, especially if you are actively out in the heat and sun.  Drink up to stay strong!

BabiesDry diapers, extra sleepy, sunken soft spot, no tears when crying
Young ChildrenDry lips, dark yellow urination, cranky and tired, no focus, sunken eyes, pale or over-flushed face color
TeensSame as children with lightheadedness, headache, extreme thirst, increased pulse

Children’s bodies are not as efficient at cooling down as adults, which makes it easier for dehydration to set in.  As their body temperatures rise, so does the risk of dehydration.  Drinking water can help avoid unnecessary health complications and heat-related illnesses.  If you become aware of any of the above signs, call your doctor right away.

A young soccer team drinking from water bottles
A young soccer team drinking from water bottles

Tips for Staying Hydrated When Being Physically Active

For children on sports teams or young ones who are very active at the playground, make sure they drink water before, during, and after play.  This is important especially if they are sweating. Typically, children do not always recognize when they are thirsty or how to communicate that need.  Be sure to offer water consistently throughout the day.  It is important to call your pediatrician if your child is lethargic, unresponsive, vomits, or expresses bodily pains.

A boy drinking water
A boy drinking water

Have a safe and happy summer with hydrated children

Now that you know why we need water, what some of the signs of dehydration are, and some tips to get your family to drink more water, you can enjoy summer to the fullest!

Below are some links to promote drinking water with children:

The Water Song, by on YouTube-

MyPlate kids’ ebooks, activities, and games-

Jack and the Hungry Giant Eat Right with MyPlate, by Loreen Leedy, 2015, for 4-8 year-olds.

Water: Why We Drink to Refuel, by Harriet Brundle, 2020, for 8-12 year-olds.

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