7 Tips for Keeping Your Kids Hydrated
The younger the child, the easier it is to become dehydrated. A stomach virus, for example, can land a toddler in the hospital, suffering from dehydration.
But beyond this obvious cause for dehydration, kids can become dehydrated faster simply because they are more active, especially in the good weather with lots of outdoor activities. It’s important to keep their bodies hydrated at all times, winter or summer, and here’s why:
- Up to 75% of a child’s body is water. This is a larger proportion than in adults.
- Young kids sweat more than adults and are consistently losing more water.
- Hydration will improve mood and brain activity. There is actually some research that says kids who stay properly hydrated do better in school.
- Good hydration prevents constipation.
- Water helps flush out bacteria and toxins.
- Water helps carry blood (and thus oxygen) throughout the body to vital organs.
So, exactly how does a parent get a child to increase his fluid intake (optimally the equivalent of 6-8 glasses of water per day, and more during and after strenuous physical activity)? Here are a few tips:
- Model Water Drinking Throughout the Day
If drinking water was not developed as a habit during infancy, then a child may only want milk or juice. This is fine, as far as it goes. But these liquids also contain fats and sugars. You can model drinking water for your child and also see to it that he drinks more water, in the following ways:
- Serve water with every meal. And drink it yourself. You can even make it a rule that his water must be completely finished, just as his other food, before dessert, before returning to play, etc.
- When you go out in the car, fill bottles of water for yourself and your children.
- If you stop for fast food during an outing, the rule is they get water (or fully natural juice) as a beverage, as opposed to soda.
- Only Natural Juices, Please
There is nothing wrong with fruit juices – they have plenty of water in them. But only purchase those that are 100% juice, thus avoiding the huge amounts of sugars in most other types. And, in the interests of the environment, if you must buy individual servings for outings and such, purchase only recyclable boxes.
- Lots of Fruits and Veggies
Most fruits and vegetables have a good amount of water in them. Make these the “go-to” snacks while at home or on the go. If there aren’t other options (chips, cookies, etc.), they will ultimately go with their favorite fruits. Most kids like applesauce, for example, and you can have individual servings pre-prepared; you can peel oranges and have the slices in individually-wrapped baggies in the fridge. The same goes for carrot sticks. The key here is to make it easy to grab a fruit or veggie. Such a diet packed with fruit and veggies will be beneficial for parents too in terms of both physical and mental health.
- Find Fun Ways to Increase Water Intake
Here is a great idea – take small pieces of fruit and freeze them in ice cube trays. Younger kids will think this is great and can pick which cube they want. And put those cubes in a glass of water at mealtime too.
Make homemade popsicles out of those healthy juices, rather than buying the sugary ones in the frozen food department. You can even put them in ice trays with toothpicks (insert toothpick when partially frozen.
- Sports Drinks
If your kiddo is involved in sports, hydration is critical before, during, and after that activity. There are lots of sports drinks out there that provide rapid hydration without a lot of sugar and that are designed specifically for children and teens. These should be as important as any sporting equipment or gear you cart to those games – they replace electrolytes quickly.
- Re-Usable Fun Drinking Cups
For younger children, drinking cups with lids and crazy straws can be a motivator. Find their favorite movie characters or superheroes. And if you want to be a “stickler” for water, then the rule is they drink a full cup of water first, before they get one with juice or milk.
- Make a Game of It
Again, this is primarily for younger children. You can have a chart on the fridge – a sheet of paper with empty glasses on it. Each time your child drinks a full cup of water, he gets to color in one of the glasses on the chart. When he reaches 24 cups (ideally every three days), he gets some kind of reward. It doesn’t have to be big – just something that he sees as valuable.
The Habit is the Goal
As kids grow into adulthood, many going off to college, you will not have control over their hydration measures. That is why it is so important to get them into the habit of hydration from an early age so that it carries over when you are not around. You want them to be good students – able to focus on those tough math problems or becoming the best paper writers, or able to focus and retain that biology content. Staying hydrated will foster good brain function for all of these tasks. And the lack of hydration will result in sluggishness and a rather consistent feeling of being tired. No one, not a child, teen, college student, or adult, can fully function when they are in this condition.
Author’s bio. Daniela McVicker is a psychologist and family counselor. She is also a freelance writer and a contributor to Essayguard. Her passion is writing about leading a healthy family life and helping people enjoy their lives to the fullest.