Along with milk, water is the best drink choice for kids. It helps keep joints, bones and teeth healthy, helps the blood circulate and can help kids maintain a healthy weight into adulthood — with zero calories and no added sugar.
Being well-hydrated improves mood, memory and attention in children. And of course, tap water is much less expensive than sports drinks, sodas and juice.
Many parents ask how much liquid kids need. At 6 months, babies can be introduced to water, and they need only 4-8 ounces per day (the rest of their liquids are coming from breast milk or formula).
To stay well hydrated, kids ages 1-3 need 4 cups of water or milk per day; 5 cups for ages 4-8; 7-8 cups for 9 and older.
With all of the enticing sugary drinks out there, kids often prefer sweet flavors over water, and those drinks usually contain way more sugar than children need in a day.
But water doesn’t have to be boring! There are plenty of ways to help the whole family to stay hydrated throughout the day. Being a good role model is a great way to help make water part of your children’s routine and get them in the habit of drinking water before they’re thirsty.
5 fun twists on staying hydrated
- Infuse water with lemons, berries, cucumber or mint for some added flavor. This is an easy way to keep the whole family coming back for refills.
- Keep fruits and veggies high in water content handy. Some of the best vegetables are cucumber, zucchini, iceberg lettuce, celery and tomato. Top fruits include watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries and grapefruit.
- Freeze fruit in ice cubes to make your drinks more fun. Young children can help fill the trays.
- Delight kids with special water bottles or cups. Whether it is a personalized sports bottle or a fancy cup with an umbrella or swirly straw, adding a festive touch can make a difference.
- Make your own popsicles with pureed fruit for an afternoon cool-down. Make it a fun family activity by decorating small paper cups, or find popsicle molds in fun shapes.
Avoid too much of these liquids
Sugar-filled drinks discourage a habit of drinking plain water and can add extra empty calories to the diet. They can also leave your kids less hungry for the nutritious foods they really need. Added sugars can lead to excess weight gain, cavities, diabetes and more.
- Sugary drinks: Make a rule that no sugar-sweetened beverages are allowed for children who are younger than 2. Limit them for your older children as much as possible, including sports drinks, juice cocktails, sodas, lemonade and sweetened water.
- Juice: While they can contain some vitamins, even 100% juices are high in sugar and calories and low in the fiber found in whole fruit.
- Flavored milk: Although it has calcium and vitamins, flavored milk can be much higher in sugar, and may discourage a preference for regular milk.
- Stevia or artificially sweetened drinks: Because health risks for children from stevia and artificial sweeteners are not well understood, it is best to avoid these drinks.