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Water You Waiting For? Creative Tips to Make Hydration Fun for Kids

by Yuyu. Published on .

Ensuring kids stay well hydrated is one of the most important things caregivers can do to support children's health. Water makes up a large percentage of kids' body weight, so maintaining adequate hydration is essential for their bodies to function properly. Getting enough fluids supports everything from physical growth and development to brain function and mood regulation.

For growing kids, hydration provides a long list of benefits. Drinking plenty of water delivers nutrients to cells, regulates body temperature, lubricates joints, protects sensitive tissues, and prevents constipation. Proper hydration also enhances cognitive abilities like concentration, memory, and alertness.

In addition, it keeps kids looking and feeling their best by promoting skin health, reducing fatigue, and preventing headaches.

Clear drinking glass
Photo by Cats Coming

Daily Water Intake Recommendations

Water is essential for growing children, yet recommendations for daily intake vary by age. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Infants 0-6 months - Breastmilk and formula provide all the hydration they need. No additional water is recommended.

  • Infants 6-12 months - As solid foods are introduced, water can supplement feedings. Aim for 1-2 cups total from both milk and water.

  • Toddlers 1-3 years - Encourage 1-4 cups of total fluids per day. Water should be the main source of hydration.

  • Preschoolers 3-5 years - Aim for 4-6 cups of fluids per day, with water as the primary beverage.

  • Elementary age 6-12 years - 5-8 cups of water daily is recommended, along with water-based foods like fruits and veggies.

Certain situations call for increased fluid intake. On hot days, before and after vigorous activity, and when ill with fever or vomiting, kids need extra hydration.

Pay attention to signs of thirst and offer more opportunities for drinking water. Customize amounts based on climate, activity level, and individual needs.

Benefits of Proper Hydration

Adequate water intake provides a wide range of health benefits for growing children. Staying hydrated is essential for supporting physical health, cognitive function, and mood regulation in kids.

On a physical level, water helps transport nutrients and oxygen to cells, regulates body temperature, cushions joints, protects organs and tissues, and aids digestion. Well-hydrated bodies function optimally during physical activities. In contrast, even mild dehydration can lead to headaches, fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, and impaired performance.

For the developing brain, hydration is vital. Research shows dehydration can negatively impact concentration, memory, cognition, and mood in children. Water intake is linked to better short-term memory and attention span. Proper hydration equates to better learning outcomes in school.

Finally, hydration stabilizes mood. Dehydration often manifests as crankiness or irritability. This is because certain hormones and neurochemicals are affected by hydration status. Supporting healthy water intake helps children maintain more consistent energy levels and emotional regulation.

Drink water on a beach
Photo by Amber Faust

Risks of Dehydration

Dehydration can have serious consequences for children's health and wellbeing. Physically, dehydration can lead to headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. It can also result in digestive issues like constipation. More severe dehydration requires medical attention and can even lead to seizures or unconsciousness if left untreated.

Dehydration also negatively impacts children's focus, behavior and cognitive abilities. When children's bodies lack sufficient fluid, their brains are unable to function at full capacity. Dehydration can make kids feel groggy, moody or irritable. Their concentration suffers and they may have difficulty focusing in school. Mild dehydration has been linked with impaired short-term memory and visual motor skills as well. Ensuring kids stay well-hydrated is key to supporting their physical health, behavior and academic performance.

Identifying Dehydration in Children

It's important for parents and caregivers to recognize the signs of dehydration in kids before it becomes severe. Both physical and behavioral changes can indicate a child is not getting enough fluids.

Physical Signs

  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Eyes that appear sunken
  • Soft spot on head that sinks inward
  • Dry, cool skin
  • Decreased urine output and concentrated urine that is dark yellow in color
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

Behavioral Signals

  • Increased crankiness or irritability
  • Lethargy, tiredness, or weakness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Trouble concentrating or decreased alertness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea

If a child exhibits multiple dehydration symptoms, especially along with decreased urination, it's important to encourage fluid intake and consult a pediatrician if symptoms do not improve. Catching dehydration early can help avoid more severe complications.

Encouraging Water Intake

Getting kids to drink enough water each day can be challenging. However, there are many creative ways to make water more enticing and build hydration into their routine.

Creative Cup and Bottle Ideas

  • Let kids pick out their own special water bottle or cup. Opt for fun straws, lids, and designs to make drinking more exciting.

  • Add ice cubes or frozen fruit to water for a refreshing chilled drink.

  • Try using cups with built-in infusers that allow kids to fill a center compartment with sliced fruit. As they drink, the water becomes naturally flavored.

  • Use cups with markers that show time stamps or change color as kids fill them up throughout the day. This lets them visually track their progress.

  • Switch from plastic to stainless steel bottles. The change in weight and texture can make water more interesting.

assorted fruits near water bottle
Photo by Alex Azabache

Infusing Flavor

  • For basic infused water, add slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, watermelon, berries, mint, or other fresh flavors that kids enjoy. Let it steep overnight or a few hours.

  • Make "spa water" by combining sliced fruit, herbs, and vegetables like pineapple, strawberry, kiwi, orange, rosemary, and celery for a refreshing twist.

  • Add just a splash of 100% fruit juice to plain water for a subtle flavor kids love.

  • Freeze small fruits like grapes, blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries and use them as ice cubes to flavor water as they melt.

Routines and Reminders

  • Establish set times for water breaks, like after waking up, before/after meals, between school subjects, and mid-afternoon.

  • Set a daily goal for ounces drank and use stickers or magnets to track progress.

  • Send water bottle reminders before field trips, sports practices, and other activities.

  • Use phone alarms or smart water bottles that glow/beep when it's time to drink.

  • Keep water bottles easily accessible - in backpacks, on desks, in the car, and at the dinner table.

  • Practice drinking water together as a family to reinforce hydration habits.

Incorporating Water-Rich Foods

Kids' water intake doesn't have to come exclusively from drinking water. Certain foods have high water content and can contribute to your child's hydration needs.

Fruits and vegetables are excellent options. Foods like watermelon, strawberries, cucumber, celery, grapefruit, and oranges are over 90% water. Blend fruits into smoothies or serve raw veggies with dip to increase your child's water consumption through food.

pancakes and fruits
Photo by Rachel Claire

Soups and broth-based dishes are also great for hydration. Try serving your child a small bowl of vegetable or chicken noodle soup as an appetizer or pairing it with a sandwich for lunch. The liquid from the soup counts towards their daily fluid intake. You can also use broth as the base when cooking grains like rice, quinoa or barley. The added moisture boosts the water content of the entire meal.

Getting children to eat more fruits, veggies and soups has nutritional benefits beyond just hydration. Take advantage of water-rich foods to encourage both proper hydration and a balanced diet.

Leading by Example

As a parent or caregiver, you can lead by example to encourage kids to stay hydrated. Children are observant, and they often mimic the habits they see role models practicing.

Make a point to model good hydration habits yourself. Drink water frequently throughout the day, especially in front of children. Pour a glass of water for yourself when you pour one for your child. Bring a water bottle along and take sips when you're at the playground or running errands together.

Drinking water together can also help. Have a special "water break" during playtime when everyone pauses to drink water. Use mealtimes as an opportunity for the whole family to drink a glass of water together. Set a goal to finish your water before leaving the dinner table. Present it to kids as a fun challenge you're taking on as a team.

When you demonstrate the importance of hydration through your own actions, kids will be more likely to follow your lead. Leading by example and making water consumption a shared habit sets them up for a lifetime of healthy hydration.

Making It Engaging

Kids learn best when they're having fun, so incorporating playfulness into hydration education is key. Try these engaging ideas:

  • Turn drinking water into a game. Have kids "race" to finish their water glass or use fun straws to blow bubbles and make the water more amusing.

  • Hydration "scavenger hunts" where kids seek out water sources around the house or neighborhood. Give them a list or make it a competition.

  • Make DIY "water filters" using pebbles, sand, flowers and let kids "filter" and flavor their water. Gets them invested in the process.

  • Start a wall chart or sticker rewards system for reaching daily water goals. Make it colorful and celebratory.

  • Use their love of characters - try hydration hero water bottles or cups featuring favorite animated friends.

  • Tell stories that highlight the water needs of plants and animals. Kids relate to those connections.

  • Set phone alarms/timers reminding kids to stop and drink on schedule. Make it fun with custom ringtones.

The key is reframing water as an adventure rather than a chore. Adding elements of exploration, imagination and playfulness can go a long way in getting kids engaged and excited to stay hydrated.


Staying hydrated is one of the most important things kids can do for their health and wellbeing. By drinking plenty of water each day, children give their growing bodies the fluids they need to function properly. As discussed, water boosts energy, enhances cognitive abilities, prevents constipation, and keeps the immune system strong. It also helps regulate body temperature on hot days.

On the flip side, inadequate hydration puts children at risk for dehydration, with symptoms like headache, fatigue, dry mouth, and dizziness. Mild to moderate dehydration can negatively impact kids' performance at school and physical activities. That's why it's so important to ensure kids are drinking enough over the course of each day.

With some creativity and patience, parents and caregivers can find ways to make water intake more appealing. Adding sliced fruit, using fun cups and straws, turning it into a game, and leading by example are great strategies to try. The goal is to build a lifelong habit of proper hydration.

We'd love to hear your tips and success stories about encouraging water consumption in kids. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. By working together and being vigilant, we can make sure the children in our lives are getting the fluids they need to stay healthy.

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