Staying Hydrated On Hot Summer Days
Water is essential for active, growing children. After all, a child’s body is 65-75% water! Adequate hydration is necessary for regulating a number of bodily functions, such as proper digestion, movement of waste, blood circulation, joint health, and body temperature regulation. Drinking enough water can also help protect your child’s teeth and help them maintain a healthy body weight. In the warm summer months, children need even more water than usual, and it’s important to monitor your child’s fluid intake.
How much water does a child need? The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that kids ages 1-3 should have 4 cups of fluids per day, kids ages 4-8 should have 5 cups of fluids, and kids ages 9 or older should have 7-8 cups of fluids per day. Although most of your child’s fluid intake should be water, daily hydration can also come from milk or juice. On very warm days, or days when your child is more active than usual and sweats more, make sure your child takes in extra fluids.
Babies should not have any other drinks besides water and breastmilk and/or formula. Breastmilk or formula should be the primary source of hydration for infants up to 12 months of age. When your baby starts solids, usually around 6 months old, he can have a few ounces of water to be offered with meals (usually about 4-8oz per day is ideal). When babies are first offered water, many will only take a sip or two. Don’t worry, this is all practice for when your baby is older!
How can I encourage my child to drink more water?
Make it easily available.
Make sure that water is easily accessible for your children. Keep plastic cups somewhere your children can reach, and consider buying a water dispenser they can use throughout the day to refill their own cup. Younger children and toddlers can use sippy cups or straw cups that a parent can refill throughout the day. Some toddlers are picky when it comes to cups, so you might have to try a few different styles. Keep a cup or bottle of water handy in each room your child is playing in. Take along a full bottle of water for your child anytime you leave the house, and encourage your child to take sips of water throughout the day. Some kids will forget to drink water unless they are constantly reminded to, so be aware of how much your child is drinking - and maybe even create a “hydration chart” together to check off throughout the day!
Teach them about the importance of hydration.
Find some books about the importance of water, and read them with your child. You can also watch videos online that help kids learn about staying hydrated. KIds also learn best when adults model the desired behavior - so set a good example and make sure you are staying hydrated, too!
Emphasize the right kind of fluids.
Although they are marketed to families as ways to help children stay hydrated, fruit juice, lemonades, or sports/electrolyte drinks aren’t ideal for kids because they contain large amounts of sugar. If your kids enjoy these drinks, consider diluting them with water. Children should stay away from caffeinated drinks like energy drinks, coffee, tea, or soda, as these can mask the symptoms of dehydration and can also lead to increased fluid loss.
Get hydration through foods.
If your child puts up a fight about drinking enough water, don’t fret! Hydration can also come through foods. Watermelon, berries, fruit and vegetable purees, cucumbers, pineapple, celery, cantaloupe, honeydew, oranges, peaches, broccoli, lettuce, and zucchini are all high in water content. You can also make fruit and vegetable smoothies for your child, or create healthy popsicle recipes together.
Be creative in your water intake.
Some children don’t like the taste of plain water, but that doesn’t mean you need to turn to sugary juices or sodas to keep them hydrated. Flavor their water with delicious additives like lemon, lime, orange, or 100% fruit juice. You can also add fresh or frozen berries or cucumber to a bottle of water to give it an extra boost of flavor! You can buy special water bottles and pitchers that have a compartment designed to keep fruit chunks or seeds from falling into the water. You can also freeze chunks of fruit in ice cube trays, and pop a flavored ice cube into your child’s cup of water. Allow your child to experiment with different flavor combinations!
Allow your child to pick a special water bottle.
Sometimes all it takes is giving your child a little independence. Next time you’re at the store, let your child pick out a special new water bottle to use this summer. When you get home, wash it and label it with your child’s name, and be sure to pack the water bottle wherever you go! Water bottles come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and some have straws, some have spouts, and some have regular lids. Let your child pick the design she likes the most, and she’ll probably end up drinking more water throughout the day.
Parents should keep an eye on their children to watch for signs of possible dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include fewer wet diapers in babies and toddlers, lethargy and sleepiness, headaches, nausea, dry lips, irritability, flushed skin, rapid pulse, and dark-colored urine. Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, dangerous heat-related illnesses in kids. If you are concerned about your child’s possible dehydration, cool him down with wet towels, remove excess clothing, and give your child an ice pack. Call the pediatrician if this doesn’t help alleviate symptoms or if your child becomes confused or unresponsive.
As we approach the warm summer months, it’s important for parents to pay attention to their child’s hydration levels. Drinking water doesn’t have to be a chore - you can add flavors to water or create delicious popsicle or smoothie recipes to change things up! Work with your child to lead by example and show them that drinking enough water is important, especially during the summer.
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.