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Increasing Water Intake in Children


Is your child drinking enough water? A good majority of us are not drinking enough water ourselves so I am guessing that our children are getting less than their recommended intake as well. Water is something I typically talk about at all of my well child visits and its something that I think that we can all improve on.

So How much water should children be drinking?

An easy way to remember the amount of water your child should be getting is that they should have one 8 oz cup of water for each year of age they are. So at 1 they should have 1-8 oz cup of water daily. At 2 they should have 2-8 oz cups of water. At 3 they should have 3-8 oz cups of water and so on. After age 8 they should have 8-8oz cups of water daily. These are obviously goal amounts and something that many children will have to work up to drinking. These also are just water amounts and do not include other liquids consumed. For the little babies who are starting at 6 months you can offer about 4 oz of water daily— the majority of the liquids that infants are consuming will still be coming from their breastmilk or formula. I reassure parents that at this age and really any age they are not going to be drinking “too much water”. If you are or ever become concerned that your child is drinking too much water then this should be brought to the attention of their healthcare provider as this can indicative of an underlying disease process that requires further evaluation.

Now that i have thrown out these amounts of water that are likely much higher than you anticipated or than your child is currently drinking you may be thinking how in the world do I get my child to drink more water?

Here are some practical tips for increasing water intake in children:

1. Starting water introduction early—starting at 6 months children can be introduced to water. If they are not introduced to water until much later than this they are going to be like “what is this plain stuff”. They are so used to drinking liquids that are full of flavor so this will be an acquired taste at this time

2. Offer water often— have water accessible for your child throughout the day. Start the day by filling up their cup with fresh water and have it accessible while they are playing, during meals and on the go.

3. Try a new cup! How many of you notice that you drink SO much more water when you are drinking from your favorite cup? I know that I for sure drink more water when I drink from a cup with a straw. Sometimes you have to try out a few cups to get the right one especially for the younger kids. My son drinks water best from a straw cup too and even now with his whole milk he does not drink as much from the cups that he has to tilt up. For older kids sometimes just letting them pick out a new cup makes drinking water that much more interesting/exciting to them.

4. Set a goal for the day and find a way to keep track of it. Maybe you have a notepad that you tally the amounts in your kitchen or another system for keeping track. Another idea for older children would be to make a game out of it and if they get their daily amounts in for the week they get to pick a fun activity to do.

5. Be a good model. If our children watch us only drinking coffee all day then they of course are not going to realize the benefit of drinking water. With anything in parenting it is much easier to get the action we desire out of our children if we are also emulating this behavior.

6. Mix it up. Ideally children should be used to drinking water all on its own the majority of the time but i definitely get a good chunk of patients who parents report “they don’t like water” , which definitely comes back to the idea of introducing plain water early at 6 months! For kids who really don’t love water you can try to spice it up a bit by adding fresh fruit to the water. Try to stay away from water additives that completely mask the flavor of the water as the goal is to get your child to like the water. However, if you have to start here, then I would suggest slowly decreasing the amount that you add to the water until it tastes mostly like water with a little added flavor.

7. Talk about the importance of drinking water with your children. Teach them that our bodies are mostly made up of water and so it makes sense that we need to drink water to stay healthy. Water helps you go to the bathroom so that you can get rid of the waste in your body. Water helps your brain to learn and focus. Water helps your heart to beat stronger and more effectively.

After hearing all of this are you going to go fill up your water bottle, because I know I am. Like all habits, this change likely isn’t going to happen overnight but starting to implement some of these tips now will make your child more of a water drinker in no time and since we are going to be mirroring these healthy habits for our children the whole family is going well hydrated!


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