Learn how to help kids stay hydrated, what their water intake should be every day, best hydrations drinks for kids, and signs of dehydration in this complete guide!
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Ever wonder if your kid is getting enough hydration? Or, does your kid struggle to drink enough water to stay hydrated? This guide is for you. In it, you’ll find:
- Why staying hydrated is important for kids
- The average water intake they need based on their age and weight
- How to help them stay hydrated
- Hydration drinks
- Signs of dehydration
If you live in a warm climate, or in hot summer seasons, hydration for kids is even more important! Let’s dig in…
Why is Staying Hydrated Important?
Most of us take it for granted, but staying hydrated keeps our body operating at top performance. The same is true for our kids. Drinking enough fluids is important for basic bodily functions like bowel movements and energy. And, having a lack of hydration can cause all sorts of problems like headaches and even overeating.
Often, when we become thirsty, the brain confuses the signal and thinks we’re hungry. Since some foods give us some hydration, think fruits and vegetables that produce juice, we get some liquid when we eat as well.
However, sometimes drinking some water helps kids meet their needs without having another snack. Something to keep in mind if your child doesn’t drink a lot, but complains of being hungry a lot, despite having eaten.
Recommended Water Intake for kids
How much water does your child need to drink in a day? A good rule of thumb is take half their body weight and drink that many ounces of water. For instance, if your child weighs 25 pounds aim for around 12-13 ounces of water a day. If they weigh 100 pounds, they would need around 50 ounces a day.
Basically, the bigger a child is, the more hydration they need for their body!
However, if your child exercises, gets sweaty, or it’s hot outside, they will need more water to replenish what they’ve lost. For smaller children under the age of 5, this could be around 4 more ounces for every hour they’re in the heat or sweating. For older or larger kids, they may need 8 ounces or more for each additional hour.
For further information for young children 5 and under see the American Academy of Pediatrics report.
10 Ways to Get Hydration for Kids
As an occupational therapist that has helped kids with all kids of eating difficulties, I’ve seen many kids struggle to drink a lot of fluids. Some kids only want milk, soda, or little to nothing to drink at all.
While milk and soda are fluids that will hydrate, they aren’t as effective as water or other thin liquids that are high in electrolytes. If your child isn’t drinking enough during the day, it can become quite stressful when summer rolls around or you find yourself somewhere hot, because they can get overheated and even dehydrated.
Helping your kid learn to drink enough water or other thin liquids will keep them staying hydrated no matter what the temperature is.
If that’s the case with your child, these tips can help increase your child’s hydration without getting into a power struggle with them.
#1. Figure out how much they need to be drinking a day (use the guideline in the section above)
Sometimes, kids are actually drinking enough once you find out how much they actually need to be drinking. Stick them on a scale if you don’t know their weight and figure out their base amount of water intake for the day.
#2. Fill up a water bottle first thing in the morning
Having water available immediately gives your child access to the water all day. Using a water bottle makes the water portable so they can take it wherever they’re going. Most water bottles also have the ounces listed on the side or bottom of the cup so that you can track how many ounces they’ve had.
Take the water bottle wherever your child goes… in the car, to the playground, on a playdate, to school, or to play outside.
I’ve always taken my kids water bottles everywhere we went, my friends even know it, when we arrive at their house they’ll often say, “They don’t need anything to drink, right? You brought their water bottles?”
Yes. Yes, I did. It’s always been a helpful way to keep them hydrated and for years, has been part of our routine. Whenever we leave the house, the kids are often clogged up in front of the refrigerator water dispenser all filling their water bottles.
Younger kids will likely want something lighter and smaller to use. We’ve used these Camel Back’s and loved them too:
#3. Remind them to take a drink!
If your child isn’t drinking enough on their own, then casually and frequently remind them. You can also just hand them the water bottle periodically or put it to their lips and then let them take the sip independently.
When you strap younger kids in their car seats, I like to hand them the drink right afterwards and say, “Take a drink. You can keep drinking while we ride to the park/store/school.”
Then, as you’re driving, you can give a couple of more reminders. A lot of kids will comply because they can’t do anything else, they’re just sitting there strapped to their chair.
#4. Try a squeeze of lemon or orange juice
If your child can’t get behind water and struggles to drink it, adding a little natural flavor can help. Of course, some kids will love the taste of lemon in their water and some will hate it even more. You don’t know though until you try a few times.
To introduce this to your child, make yourself a glass of water with a squeeze of citrus in it and let them try it a few times. Ask if they’d like to try it in their water.
#5. Add ice to their water!
Some kids love ice, especially crushed ice, if that’s an option. Tell them to shake it up a little bit and they can hear the ice clinking around. The cold water does overpower a lot of the taste, which can also be helpful for some kids.
Plus, the ice cubes can help cool your child even further on hot summer days.
#6. Add sliced fruit to their water
Kids will like dropping a few berries into their water, or you could make a large pitcher with some fruit added to the water and then pour it into their water bottles or serve it in fun open cups at meals or special times during the day to increase their interest and how much fluid they drink.
#7. Eat watermelon!
Watermelon has a lot of fluid in it and eating a full serving can do wonders in increasing hydration. You can also blend up watermelon with ice and water for a fun slurry drink or freeze as popsicles!
#8. Rotate in some sports drinks or fruit juices
If your child is still struggling to drink enough water, you can either mix in some sport drinks or juice from 100% concentrate. Avoid using sugary drinks and look for high water content. (See my recommendations for the best hydration drinks for kids below).
Or, you could start off with water, and when the water is gone, let your child choose a time of day that they’ll have their juice or sport drink. I’m careful to not use it as a reward or bribe, but instead focusing on moderation.
#9. Let them pick their water bottle
If your child needs some extra incentive, let them choose their water bottle in the morning! Or pick out their favorite design. This type of water bottle has so many colors and designs. This could help give them some buy in to drinking well throughout the day.
#10. Use popsicles and ice
To help keep kids hydrated, use popsicles or ice chips when it’s hot outside. You can make your own popsicles with juice or sports drinks too!
If it’s cold, you can also use bone broths and, of course, Pedialyte, especially if they’re sick and you know you’re approaching dehydration.
My Favorite Hydration Drinks for Kids
Water is my favorite and the most recommended way to help kids stay hydrated. But, sports drinks and juice can have it’s place. If your child won’t drink any water at all, take small steps with watering down some of their favorite beverages slowly overtime.
I like Ready brand because there isn’t any high fructose corn syrup which is in most other sports drink brands. It’s all natural. However, keep in mind, it still is higher in sugar.
This juice is almost like water, it’s very low in sugar and organic. It comes in a ton of flavors, my kids have been drinking it, occasionally, for years.
Key Signs of Dehydration in Kids
If you suspect your child isn’t drinking enough or it’s very hot outside, you’ll want to watch for signs of dehydration in your child:
- Diminished activity level
- Complains of dry mouth
- Dark yellow strong smelling urine
- Dry skin
- Infrequent urination (no urination in 24 hours)
If you know your child hasn’t been drinking a lot and you see these signs in them, try to get them to drink water or fluids immediately while you call their doctor. Make sure you get in touch with them right away, and if you can’t, you may need to take them to emergency care.
Using the tips above to prevent dehydration will help keep your child hydrated.
We’d love to hear from you in the comments below… does your child drink a lot of fluids during the day or is it a struggle? Any of your own tips to share? We’d love to hear!
If you’re new here, grab our our 9 Ways to Improve Eating Free Printable, which can also help kids stay better hydrated!
More on Hydration for Kids
Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 17 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.