How Much Water Kids Should Drink and Tips To Keep Them Hydrated

The benefits of staying hydrated are crystal clear, but some kids can't be easily persuaded to sip up. Here's how much kids should drink, with tips for encouraging them to get enough fluids.

It's always important for kids to meet their daily fluid needs. Water is abundant in the brain, heart, lungs, skin, and even bones. The vital nutrient helps control body temperature, supports healthy digestion, brings wastes out of the body, prevents constipation, and much more. Keep reading to learn how much water your kid should drink, with tips for staying hydrated throughout the day.

How Much Water Should Kids Drink?

As the saying goes, you can lead a child to water, but you can't make them drink. The amount of liquid your kid needs depends on their weight and physical activity. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids between 1 and 3 years need approximately 4 cups of hydrating liquids like water or milk per day. Kids 4 to 8 need 5 cups, and those older than 8 need 7 to 8 cups to maintain healthy hydration.

Note that most of your child's fluid intake should be water, and the amount will increase in warmer months. When it's hot outside, or if your child is very active and sweating, be sure they are sipping additional water at least every 20 minutes.

boy drinking from water bottle after biking
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Encourage Your Child to Drink More Water

Your child may not remember to stop and drink water when they're busy playing. But when the sun glaring and that sweating is dripping, it is important to make sure that your child is replacing that lost water. Here are some tips for encouraging proper hydration.

Always have liquids available.

Take water bottles with you when you leave the house, and offer your child something to sip during moments of stillness, such as screen time and car rides. If you'll be out and about for extended periods of time, pack an extra water bottle for your child and fill it all the way to the top with ice before you put water in; that way as it slowly melts it will stay cool.

Model proper hydration yourself.

When kiddos see their parents consistently reaching for water, they will be more inclined to do the same. Not only is it good for your health to stay hydrated, you'll be a constant reminder to your child that good habits can be easy to maintain.

Get educated.

Staying hydrated is one of the simplest ways to maintain health. Did you know that maintaining a healthy hydration level can improve your mood, cushion your joints, help your body maintain its natural temperature, and get rid of waste including toxins in your blood and digestive tract? Staying hydrated is a powerful way to stay healthy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tons of excellent information to help you learn more.

Mix it up.

Sure, a glass of cool water can go a long way to quench a dry thirst. But after a while, plain ol' water can be...well, boring. Your kids might get more excited about staying hydrated by adding some fun flavors to their water bottles. Here are a few fun ideas:

  • Lemon, lime, grapefruit, or orange slices
  • Fresh herbs like mint, cilantro, basil, or rosemary
  • Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries—but do watch out for choking hazards for younger kids.
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Cucumber
  • A splash of fruit juice form the fridge

Eat hydrating foods.

Your child does not need to get their liquids exclusively from just liquids. Juicy fruits like watermelon and berries, fruit and veggie pouches, vegetables like cucumbers, and healthy fruit ice pops can all help your little one get hydrated.

Limit juice and soda intake.

Try to keep fruit juices and electrolyte drinks to a minimum, and dilute them with water, because they contain a lot of sugar and salt. Also, avoid drinks with caffeine, such as iced tea or many sodas, because caffeine is a diuretic that can contribute to dehydration by increasing fluid loss.

Buy special drinking supplies.

It's also helpful to let your child pick out their own special cup, water bottle, or silly straw. Staying hydrated doesn't have to feel like a chore. Just like us parents love a new coffee mug or water bottle, kids do too! Give your child a choice about their container and they will more likely to sip their water throughout the day.

Watch for Signs of Dehydration

Children are more prone to dehydration than adults because their bodies don't cool down as efficiently, and the summer heat increases the risk. The danger arises when fluids leave the body through sweating faster than they are being replaced, and severe dehydration can be life-threatening.

A good sign of proper hydration is light-yellow or clear urine. Darker urine, decreased urine, dry skin, chapped lips, and no tears when crying can all be signs of dehydration. By the time your child simply feels thirsty, they may already be dehydrated, so do your best to stay ahead of the situation. Kids get rehydrated pretty quickly; if you're worried your child is dehydrated, offer them small sips of fluids frequently.

You should visit the emergency room or call 911 if your child experiences extreme lethargy, unresponsiveness, vomiting, lack of sweat, and severe abdominal pain.

Parts of this article originally appeared in Parents magazine's July 2021 issue as "How to Keep Your Child Hydrated." Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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