We all know that water is essential for children (and adults!) but how much do they need? And what fluids should we be giving our children? What if they don’t like water? Hopefully I will be able to answer these and other questions below! I have also included a few tips for getting your child to like water.
Why do we need fluids?
Of course we all know that water is essential for survival but why? Fluids are an essential component of the diet to maintain hydration, aid digestion and absorption and to protect against constipation. Children lose water through sweating, urine, faeces and even breathing! This fluid needs to be replaced in order for the organs to function properly.
How much fluid do children need?
Toddlers and children should be offered 6-8 drinks per day – the size of the drink will depend on the age of the child. For toddlers 100-120ml per drink is a suitable size and for older children 150-180ml at each drink is suitable. Of course a child will need additional fluids if they have been doing extra physical activity or in very hot weather.
What types of fluids are suitable?
Water is the ideal choice, as it contains no sugar or acid that can both damage teeth. Tap water is absolutely fine (in the UK) and is suitable for toddlers and all children to drink. Water should always be the drink of choice for quenching thirst.
What about milk as a drink?
Milk is also a suitable drink for toddlers but make sure they are not drinking too much milk as this can decrease their appetite for food and decrease iron absorption. See my previous post on ‘Milk…how much is enough?’
Toddlers under 2 years of age should be given full cream / whole milk as lower fat milks do not contain enough vitamin A (a fat soluble vitamin).
Infants (children under the age of 1) should be given breast milk or formula milk as their “milk” as cow’s milk does not contain the correct balance of nutrients for infants (it is too high in protein and some salts as well as too low in certain vitamins and iron).
What about pure unsweetened 100% fruit juice?
Pure fruit juices are a good source of vitamin C, which can help the body absorb iron. However, fruit juices have also been shown to be acidic and can therefore erode tooth enamel in young children. If you are going to give fruit juices, make sure they are very well diluted with plenty of water (one part juice to about 6-10 parts water) and are given with meals, not between meals.
Tips for helping your child like water
- Start to offer water when you wean your child (approximately 6 months of age)
- Offer water at each meal and snack (regularly)
- If you want to give some diluted fruit juice, offer it with meals and offer water between meals
- Drink water yourself and with the children so that they see you drinking it!
- Be positive about drinking water!