Do you have a hard time getting your child to drink water? Maybe it’s hard for you to stay ahead of his or her thirst (a sign that they’re already dehydrated). Or perhaps you’re challenged with an older child who’s not under your influence as much (like at school) who also prefers sugary, less hydrating, low-nutrient drinks like juice, processed milk, and soda.
If you’re a health-conscious parent, you know about the benefits of water and how necessary it is to nourish our cells and drive most physiological functions in our bodies. The most popular recommendation right now is drinking half one’s body weight of water in ounces. But we often need more than that when the weather is hot, we’re sweating a lot, or when we’re sick. Dehydration can happen to people of all ages when we’re losing more water than we’re consuming. Sometimes dehydration can be so severe that a hospital visit is necessary to treat with IV fluids. Getting kids to prioritize drinking water is your best option to prevent serious issues.
Don’t worry though! It is totally possible for you to help your child establish this healthy habit. Here are several tips I can offer that have worked in my family to keep my son well-hydrated and preferring water over other drinks.
How To Get Your Child To Drink More Water
Model drinking water at home
If your kids see you reaching for coffee, sodas, juice, or even alcoholic beverages (that look like juice!) instead of water, then they’ll want what you have and will not understand the importance of water. You’ll need to teach them that water is best for you and for them.
Offer water first thing in the morning
Everyone, adults and kids alike, would benefit from drinking water first thing in the morning. This primes the body to start peristalsis (moving the digestive tract) which is one of the body’s main detoxification methods. Offer water to your child as soon as they wake, or even leave a large cup of water next to their bed so they can get in the habit of drinking as soon as they wake up. Of course it would be good for you to be doing the same! Adults should try to drink a 1-3 glasses of water upon waking. Your digestion should improve!
Let your child have their own special cup or water bottle
It can make all the difference if your child has their own water container. Let them pick out a special cup. Let them decorate their water bottle with stickers. It’s best to drink out of stainless steel, ceramic, copper, or glass, but plastic will do if that’s all that’s available.
Keep a pitcher of water at kitchen table
You’ll whole family will find it easier to drink more water if you keep a pitcher full on the kitchen table at all times. Kids love to be able to help themselves, so you could even make it easier for them by having a pitcher small enough that they can pour from themselves.
Always travel with water
Try to get your child in the habit of taking a bottle of water with them everywhere. All car rides, school, field trips, and even play dates (if you’re child is uncomfortable asking the parent for water).
Flavor the water
Of course it’s best if a child can appreciate the flavor of water alone. If they prefer drinking juice, try offering flavored water as a healthy alternative. Add sliced cucumber, lemon, berries, and/or mint. Our family also loves to drink a chilled hibiscus tea which tastes fruity but does not have any sugar.
(If the whole family agrees that the house water tastes bad, you may want to consider water testing & filtration!)
Drink sleepy time teas as bedtime ritual
Many families prefer to have milk at bedtime to help induce sleep, but unless you’re drinking raw milk, there’s not enough nutrients and way too much sugar in processed, lower fat milks. As a bedtime drink, you’re better off offering water alone or a bedtime tea to make it a more special ritual. Chamomile or lavender teas can help them relax to support better sleep. Offer it 1-2 hours before bed so they can go to the bathroom before falling asleep and not risk having to wake up to pee.
Teach child signs of dehydration & the risks
Again, dehydration is very serious. If you can spot it easily in babies and toddlers (no wet diapers within 3 hrs, crying without tears, sunken eyes, fever, and/or dry mouth). You’ll need to teach your older kids the signs of dehydration if they’re away from you much of the day. Teach them that they need to drink more water, and maybe even get help from their caregiver, if they’re experiencing:
- a dry and sticky mouth
- dark and strong smelling urine
- infrequent urination (they should be going every 3 hours or so)
- infrequent stools (they should be pooping every day)
- headaches or muscle cramps
- rapid breathing
Try to drink mainly room temperature water
While ice cubes may make drinking water more fun and ice water can feel refreshing on a hot day, it’s not the best way to drink water. We usually slow down and sip cold water (as we do hot), so it’s not as efficient as room temperature water for getting water into a child quickly to quench their thirst. Also, according to Chinese Medicine theory, cold inhibits the movement of Qi (vital energy) in the body, so can also create stomach pain or slow digestion, as can other cold foods and drinks. Still, I support you in doing what you need to to encourage your child to drink! So if you need to buy fancy ice cube trays, so be it!
I hope you’ll benefit from these tips on how to get your child to drink more water! Please let us know how you’re doing with them by commenting in this post. Moms everywhere would also love to hear your tips if you have any I didn’t mention! Well wishes to you and your family…
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