The best way to make sure a kid is drinking water and not binging on juice is a matter of not letting them start drinking juice in the first place.
The benefits for drinking the right amount of water range from losing weight, to having supple radiant skin, to knowing every clean public restroom on the route from work to home. For kids, the benefits of hydration are just as important as for adults. Unfortunately, that’s not an argument that’s necessarily going to carry the day when there’s juice or soda within arm’s reach. The problem with water from a kids perspective is that it is not sweet. The key to getting kids to want water is, therefore, to curb their impulsed to seek out super sweet beverages.
“There is no reason for kids to drink juices,” explains Dr. Pauline Jose a family physician with California’s Proactive Health Labs. “Fruit juices really don’t have any advantages to them. If you want kids to get nutrients from fruits, serve them whole fruits.”
Jose notes that along with the nutrients in whole fruits children also get great things like fiber and, yes, water. In fact, 20 percent of a person’s daily water intake comes from food (including fruits and vegetables). That said, it would take a whole bunch of strawberries to get the amount of water that kids need on a daily basis.
Importantly, water consumption should not begin until around 12-months-old. Up until that point, babies are getting their hydration through breast-milk and formula. And, in fact, giving an infant straight water can be incredibly dangerous, diluting the concentration of sodium in their system and leading to a condition called water-intoxication which can result in death.
At one year old, however, a kid can start hitting the H2O, and calculating how much is incredibly simple: one 8 ounce cup of water, per year of age, until 9 years old when they should drink the adult standard of 8 cups daily. To side-step measurement stress just understand that a pint glass of beer is 16 ounces and a gulp of water is about an ounce.
Jose notes that getting a kid to drink water is truly about helping them form a water habit. “When children start early, they continue to adopt water drinking into adulthood,” she explains. But adds the habit might need some fun to give it a nudge “Have containers that are colorful and exciting and attractive to kids. Give them fun straws.”
How to Get Kids to Drink Water
- Start the habit at one year old, with an 8-ounce cup of water per day for every year they are old, until 9-years-old when 8 cups becomes standard.
- Don’t give your kid juice. Ever.
- Make water drinking fun with whimsical cups and crazy straws.
- Have water accessible and give children permission to access it whenever they are thirsty.
- Establish a routine of water drinking after school, at (or before) meals, and in between meals on weekend days.
Once their kid has bought into the idea of a whimsical cup, Jose suggests they establish a water routine based on their daily schedule. “When they get home, give them some water,” she says. “Then have water at or before every meal. On the weekends, encourage water drinking between meals and on school days, allow them to bring nice water bottles to school.”
More than that, Jose explains that parents should have water easily accessible for kids and encourage them to access the water themselves. Not only does this give children a sense of autonomy and control, it removes the unintentional barrier of a distracted and busy parent. If a kid has easy access and permission to get water, they’ll likely serve themselves when they get thirsty. And that’s really the whole point. But there is a huge bonus for parents too: a spilled cup of water never stained a carpet.
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