The Facts About Water: How Much Water Do Kids Need?
Mommy, can I have a drink of water?
Does this question sound familiar? Could it be that they really ARE thirsty? How much water do kids need? Let’s tackle a few questions about water as it relates to our kids.
A FEW FACTS ABOUT WATER
We can survive six weeks without food but no longer than a week without water. Water makes up 75% of our body weight and 60% of your child’s body weight. Water is essential because it transports nutrients and oxygen to all cells in the body and carries waste products away. It maintains blood volume and helps lubricate joints and body tissues and, best of all, it is sugar, caffeine and calorie free!
HOW MUCH WATER DO KIDS NEED?
The Kids’ Total Daily Water Requirements chart below can help you identify about how many liters (4 cups equals one liter) of water your child or teen needs each day (www.eatright.org). I “guesstimated” the conversion to cups.
Age range, Gender, Total water (liters/day)
4-8 years, Girls & boys,1.3 liters (4 ½ cups)
9-13 years, Girls, 2.1 liters (8 cups)
9-13 years, Boys, 2.4 liters (8 ½ cups)
14-18 years, Girls, 2.3 liters (8 ¼ cups)
14 – 18 years, Boys,3.3 liters (9 cups)
(Data from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.)
From this website we find “as a rule of thumb, to get enough water, your child or teen should drink at least six to eight cups of water a day and eat the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Also, pay special attention to your child’s or teen’s water consumption when he or she is physically active. Before, during and after any physical activity, kids need to drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather. The goal is to drink one-half to two cups of water every 15 to 20 minutes while exercising.”
SIGNS THAT THE BODY IS THIRSTY
Since water is a source of energy in the body, if your kids haven’t had enough water, they will feel tired for no apparent reason. If you notice your kids acting irritable, have them drink a couple of glasses of water. In a very short time you will notice they will calm down. To address the question usually posed at bedtime of, “Can I have a drink of water”, it may be they are finding it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep because the body does not have enough hydration. I know, too much water for little ones isn’t necessarily a good idea, so make sure they get all the water they need during the day so when bedtime comes, they won’t crave water.
Lastly, when your kids feel thirsty, many times you’ll offer them a soda. But, soda’s will actually dehydrate them. That’s why they’ll usually want another soda, because they still need to quench their thirst. They still feel thirsty because their body is trying to tell them it needs water.
HOW DO I GET MY KIDS TO DRINK MORE WATER
I found some good suggestions on www.babycenter.com ways to get kids to drink more water.
My child loves drinking ice water through a straw. I think he loves the cold feeling in his mouth and the sound of the ice clinking in the cup.
You might try putting a little lemon wedge or squeezing a little bit of fresh orange into it.
When my daughter was almost 2, she fell in love with princesses. We found BPA-free plastic sparkly goblets and told her she can only use them to drink “princess water” which is just filtered water. Whenever we say, “Do you want princess water?” she always says yes so she can use the glasses. She is now 3 and it still works!
Have them pick out their own special cup to put it in. Also, maybe have a special straw to use. The more they have ownership in the process, the better. I have seen that the more I drink water, the more my 4-year-old will too!
We bought a water dispenser and put it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. When I showed it to my 4-yeear-old, you would have thought I had pronounced him king of the world. He can get water now whenever he wants it without asking. And he shows everyone who walks into our house that he can get his own drink – by himself!
Start early and don’t put a lot of options in your home. We have water, milk, and one type of juice (watered down 1/3 juice) in our house at a time.
I make my son drink a glass of water before getting a different beverage. Not a big glass, just 4 to 6 ounces. He has a little control then. He feels like he is in charge because he decides when to drink it and we don’t have battles.
WHAT SHOULD KIDS DRINK?
For good health and energy to fuel kids’ bodies, water is the perfect beverage choice for both adults and kids (familyfitness.com). Let’s see are the best choices (or not) for kids’ drinks:
Water. Make sure water gets sent to school with them. If they use a special cup, send that along. (www.babycenter.com says to keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator (water often tastes better cold.)
Milk. Make it low-or non-fat. Some of us have switched to almond or soy milk which is also a good choice.
Juice. Limit to 4-6 ounces a day for kids 6 and under (that’s ½ to ¾ of a cup). Older kids and teens can have 8-12 ounces a day. One hundred percent fruit juice is best – check the label. Fruit, drinks, punches and ades may have added sugars and calories.
Sports drinks. Generally avoid these since they add calories and sugar, but few nutrients to your child’s diet. (www.babycenter.com says to keep bottles of water available so your child can grab one on her way to school or sports activies.)
Soda. Avoid. It’s nothing but empty calories.(www.babycenter.com says set a good example and drink water instead of soda.)
WHAT ABOUT WATER AT SCHOOL
From an article in Parents magazine, the question is posed, “Does your child have access to water throughout the school day? Kids need about 6-8 cups per day, so see if your child’s teacher allows students to keep a reusable water bottle in the classroom and find out if water is available to them at lunchtime.”
STUDIES SHOW U.S. KIDS DRINK TOO LITTLE WATER
At Health Day I found a study from the October issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionthat says “that only 15 to 60 percent of boys and 10 to 54 percent of girls, depending on age, drink the minimum amount of water recommended by the U.S. Institute of Medicine. Children obtain much of their water from sweetened beverages rather than plain old H2O. And the kids who drink the most water consume fewer sweetened beverages and eat fewer high-calorie foods. Kids who drink too little water can have far-reaching health problems.” The study goes on to state that “even mild dehydration can affect physiological function, and cause fatigue, muscle weaknesses, headaches and dry mouth.”
IS YOUR CHILD GETTING ENOUGH WATER
In a recent article from www.livestrong.com there are some clues you can use to identify if your child is getting enough water.
If your child seems tired or has a headache. It could be a sign she needs more water.
If your child’s urine is dark yellow or smelly, it’s a sign she’s not getting enough water.
Don’t rely on your child’s thirst to let you know when she needs water. People are usually already dehydrated by the time they feel thirsty. (www.babycenter.com shares a comment from a parent: “when I think my child is thirsty, I hand her a water bottle. She often says she isn’t thirsty, but I ask her to drink five sips. Half the time she ends up drinking way more than that. Once she starts, she realizes she is thirsty after all.)
MOMMY, CAN I HAVE A DRINK?
Absolutely! Water is extremely important to a child’s health. By making sure our kids get “plenty of liquids will help prevent constipation by keeping the stool soft, and will help prevent urinary infections by flushing bacteria out of the urinary tract” (www.babycenter.com) Water does more than keep our kids hydrated, it keeps them healthy. Hopefully when your kids ask for water at night it’s because they want to see you and not because they’re thirsty!