Getting Kids to Drink More Water

Getting Kids to Drink More Water

Occasionally, my children come to the hospital with me while I round on patients. This morning, they sat in the nurses lounge and happily colored. When I came to collect them, I noticed a Coca Cola truck parked along side the hospital entrance. My son immediately spotted it as well, “Momma,” he said in a loud, clear voice. “That’s really naughty juice!”

“Aha, yes son,” I whispered. “But not everyone knows that.”

“But momma,” he loudly insisted. “We need to TELL them!”

So yes, my children have been indoctrinated that coke, cola, and sweetened beverages in general, are “naughty juice!” Now we just need to work some societal cues for when this information can be properly shared…

Seriously though, I’m thankful they have already started assimilating this information. With the average American consuming over 400 Coca Cola products every year we really do “need to tell them.”

It is true that liquid is of vital importance to every bodily function. However, WATER is the liquid craved and needed by the body. While soda can supply the body’s demand for water, they come with added caffeine, sugar, and other substances. Frankly, these added substances make coke an excellent floor/toilet/furniture cleaner but a lousy drink.

The average child above age 2 years needs from 40 to 64 ounces of water every day to maintain adequate hydration. Obviously this varies a bit depending on activity, outdoor humidity, and temperature. Water doesn’t have to come in “free form” from a tap. All fruits and vegetables contain water. Beverages and other food items also contain water. But plain, unadulterated water is what children need most.

Water is important for the body: 60% of the body is made up of just water. Your heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, liver, and even your digestive system depend on water to function properly. One common complaint I get in my practice is constipation. Amazingly, simply drinking more water can help your gut work better and both treat and prevent constipation.

So how do you know how much water to give your child? Here’s a simple test–monitor the urine frequency and color. If your child is urinating less than once every 4-6 hours while awake–your child likely needs more water. If the urine is a very dark color–your child likely needs more water. You want the urine to be almost a light yellow/straw color.

If your child isn’t used to drinking much water, add it in slowly. One way to help get kids to drink more water is to get them a personalized water bottle. Even a simple $1 plastic water bottle can be decorated with stickers and reused multiple times. Have it always full and available. My children each have their own cup. I have stools placed by several sinks so they can easily fill their own glass. During the summer, we sometimes make “water popsicles” that the kids can suck on. This really helps cut the heat on a blistery summer day. Sticker charts, check lists, or phone reminders can also be utilized to help incentivize water intake.

In most cities, tap water is actually superior to bottled water. Check your local county and township for information on your water quality. If your water has a mild distaste, try adding a touch of lemon juice or refrigerating it.

As we walked out of the hospital past the offending Coca-Cola truck, my son grasped my hand. “Mommy,” he whispered, “I hope people stop drinking that someday and drink water instead!” “Me too son,” I murmured. “Me too.”

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Rachel Nelson MD

graduated from Loma Linda University and completed a pediatric residency at UC Davis. She has a passion for helping children reach their full potential. She is married to a colorectal surgeon and together they have two children: Amy and Michael. Dr. Nelson enjoys playing outside with her kids, gardening, and music.

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