Welcome back to Best Case Parenting. Another common parenting issue is being dealt with today, one that I have seen and heard many times over the years. This is the perennial problem of getting children to drink enough water. My wife is an adult and I still struggle to get her to drink enough water!! So, it can be tough with children.
To get the short answer, children need to drink enough water because the important organs in their bodies need water to operate well. To get children to drink more water you could flavour it with natural lemon or other fruit flavours they like. You could also find ways to make drinking water more “fun”, as well as turning into a way for a child to act out being an adult. Children love copying what they see adults doing!!
We will now go into this problem and ideas of how to solve it in more detail. We want to help you understand why your child needs water and tips to help you get them to drink more!
Why is water important for my child?
I did allude to this briefly above, but our adult bodies are actually made up of up to 60% water. I find this statistic pretty crazy to wrap my head around, but it starts to give you an idea why it’s important. An organ such as the human brain is made up of around 75% water!! Water is an essential component in keeping those organs operating properly.
Water is so important to our bodily functions that prolonged dehydration can lead to brain swelling and even kidney failure. This gives you an idea of the importance of water.
Whenever we urinate and sweat we are losing valuable water that we need to replace.
Some key problems when your child lacks adequate water intake include:
Lack of focus
Starving your brain of water will make it harder for your child to have a good level of focus on tasks they want or need to complete. They might not have the patience to think through what they are doing.
A Moody child
A lack of water can lead to mood swings and an irritable child.
Higher possibility of constipation
Fibre takes all the plaudits when it comes to helping your child have healthy bowel movements. Water is the often forgotten hero here. It also helps your body actually break down and digest food your child eats too.
Low Physical Performance
A lack of water during periods of time where your child needs to be very active, may lead to them becoming easily tired and a low physical performance. You sweat a lot when you are so active, therefore water is especially important here.
What is a good amount of water for a child to drink?
It is hard for a lot of parents to work out what a good amount of water is for a child. As I am not a scientist or doctor we should turn to the experts here.
Let’s make a change from only looking at official American And British organisations for this! Today, let’s go down under!
The Healthy Kids website from the Australian (or New South Wales to be precise) Government tells us the following:
*5 glasses of water a day for 5-8 year olds
*7 glasses for 9-12 year olds
*8 to 10 glasses for 13 year olds and above
What about under 4’s I hear you ask! Well the USDA has a document recommending that 1-3 year old children should be having 5 and a half cups of water a day. However, they say this can come from a variety of sources, not just pure water. Water provided from juice and food is also included in this amount.
These findings should give you a good starting point for how much water to give your child, although for such an important issue I would encourage you to do your own research.
How can we tell if they aren’t getting enough water?
Unfortunately, some children (especially young children) aren’t aware enough of when they are thirsty and/or dehydrated. It is important to look out for some typical symptoms of this so that you as the parent can spot it before it’s becomes a serious issue.
Again, I am not an inspect in this field, so I went in search of one! According to Kidshealth.org, you should watch out for:
- Dry Mouth
- Lack of tears when crying
- Sunken eyes
- Urinating less
- Dry and cool skin
- A child that is easily irritated
- Unusual tiredness
Watch out for these warning signs, especially when your child has been very active on a hot day, or has a fever, diarrhea or is being sick.
How can I get my child to drink water?
Now that we know how important water is, how can we get them to drink it?
Get them a water cup that they like or a “big boy’s or girl’s cup”
The first option is to get your child a water bottle or cup that they like. This could have their favourite cartoon character emblazoned across it, for example.
The other option is to turn drinking water into a real responsibility for your child. You can give them a water cup that is more like what they see adults drinking out of, and teach them how to use it.
Children love doing what they see adults doing and usually like the idea of responsibility. This can be used to encourage drinking more water.
To give you another idea of this, as a teacher of preschool age children I usually teach my children fairly early on in the school year how to pour their own water using an adult sized water jug! You wouldn’t believe how much more water my children drink just because they want to show everyone they can pour their own water carefully!
Make drinking water more fun!
There has been a recent phenomenon of water bottles that also act as a water mister to cool you down on a hot day. Frankly, a lot of young children love playing with these and often opt to drink water simply to have another blast of water mist action!!
Simply letting your child drink through a straw could also make drinking water much more fun! Especially if you get one of those curly or flexible straws!
The “Cheers” effect
As adults, we often like to clink our glasses and say “cheers” before we drink, This is another example of using our children’s interest in copying what they see adults doing to get them to drink water.
You can also have a drink and every so often say “cheers” to your child, clink glasses and drink. This is great, because the whole rule is you MUST drink whatever is in your glass after clinking them!!
Add natural flavourings
Children can find the taste of plain water rather boring. I wouldn’t recommend cordials or most commercially flavoured water as they usually add unwanted extras to the ingredients list (even including sugar!).
A simple way to add more interesting flavourings is to add the juice from fruit that your children like. There are even water bottles and jugs that are designed to hold fruit slices for this very reason! It makes it easier than ever to have flavoured water in your home.
Make it competitive
You may have to be careful with this one, as we don’t really want children chugging water in an unsafe way! But, it can be a great way to get some children to drink water. Most children have a naturally competitive streak to them!
You can drink water alongside your child and tell them that you think you can drink water faster than them. Make it into a fun game with an edge of competition. Of course, you will let them win, but make it seem like a close run thing to encourage them to drink faster.
Teach your child why they need water
You may be surprised how many children actually start drinking more water after they learn the reason why. Find some fun videos or other resources online to help you explain this (like the one below).
And don’t be scared to expose your child to some technical or ‘adult’ language. Exposure to such terms over time is how they will learn them. Depending on age, you will have to dumb down some of your language when you explain, but don’t over simplify it!
Make a water chart
Ideally, after you have explained to your child why they need more water, you can make the process of tracking how much they drink more fun.
By having a water chart prominently displayed in your house, you can ask your child to mark off every time they finish a glass of water (and make sure they are not pouring it in your flower pots!!).
You should also get the other adults in the house to do the same, so that it turns into a fun activity for the whole family, rather than the child feeling like they are being singled out.
Don’t let the water run dry!!
Water is an important part of any child’s life, and I know how hard it can be to get some children to drink it.
I hope that this article has given you some ideas of how you can help your child drink more water.
If you have any of your own tips about this, we would love to hear about them in the comments section below.