Drink Up! Here's How Much Water Children Need to Stay Good 'n' Hydrated

Photo by JennaWagner / iStock
Photo by JennaWagner / iStock

Summer is time for happy, healthy, and hot fun in the sun. All that running around can certainly work up a sweat—which means it’s important to keep little ones hydrated.

While drinking when we feel like it is a good guideline for adults, don’t wait for your child to speak up about being thirsty. It’s important to offer plenty of water and hydrating foods throughout the day to stay ahead of the dehydration monster, which can bring about symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, and headaches. 

But how much water is enough? How about sports drinks promising extra hydration? We share the scoop on the best ways to stay hydrated this summer and keep the fun going all day long.

Water Is #1!

Other beverages like coconut water and juice can help towards daily liquid intake, but good ol’ water is best for hydration according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is pointed in it's advice to parents: "[E]nergy drinks for kids should be crossed off the family grocery list." Many sports drinks that sound healthy contain ingredients kids don't need, like sugar and caffeine. If you want to add flavor to water, try adding a squeezing a wedge of fresh lemon, lime, or orange into it.

For children who may not be able to communicate their thirst, monitoring water intake and boosting good drinking habits is vital for healthy summer fun. As a rule of thumb, children should drink at least six cups of water a day.

For more specific suggested beverage intake, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends:

  • 1-3 years: about 4 cups
  • 4 - 8 years: about 5 cups
  • 9-13 years: about 8 cups for boys, about 7 cups for girls
  • 14-18 years: about 11 cups for boys, about 8 cups for girls

When to Drink Up

Make sure kids drink water 30 minutes before a fun summer activity, like swimming or outdoor games on a hot day, and follow up every 15 to 20 minutes with more water.

Serve Up Water-Rich Foods

There’s a reason watermelon is a classic at summer picnics and barbecues—they’re 91% water!  Other delicious and hydrating summer foods include berries, apples, cherries, grapes, oranges, tomatoes, cucumbers, pineapples, and even leafy greens like spinach and arugula.

See a trend? Your daily dose of fruits and vegetables actually helps your hydration habit in addition to all the antioxidant and vitamin benefits. Eat up!

Use the Lunch Box Trick

Many kids prefer drinking cold water to room-temperature water, and there’s a multitasking way to add some refreshing water to their midday meal. When you’re heading off to school, day camp, or a family adventure, pack a frozen water bottle in your kid’s lunchbox. It’ll keep the foods fresh and supply a cool sip once it melts by lunchtime.

Do You Know the Signs of Dehydration? 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends notifying your family doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration:

  • Plays less than usual
  • Urinates less frequently
  • Parched, dry mouth
  • Fewer tears when crying
  • Sunken soft spot of the head in an infant or toddler
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