How to encourage children to stay hydrated
The human body is comprised of 60-80% water, depending on age and gender, so we're often told it's important to consume enough water to avoid this level dropping. Children are particularly at risk of becoming dehydrated because a child's body is less effective at perspiring and produces more heat during physical exertion. Because children also tend to be more physically active than adults, heat and dehydration can become more evident, more quickly.
But why is it so important to keep hydrated and how can this impact your child's performance?
Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, physician and author of chronic dehydration studies, states: "The most important life-giving substance in the body, and the one that the body desperately depends on, is water. The body is comprised of approximately 75% water and is found both outside and inside the cells, and is the basis for all bodily fluids."
Water serves numerous vital functions such as maintaining cell structure, waste removal, and distribution of nutrients, oxygen and immune cells. Water also plays a leading role in stabilising body temperature. Hydration has been associated with energy levels and physical endurance, as well as concentration and focus. To enable our children to get the most out of every day, staying hydrated is, therefore, both logical and important for a balanced mood and your child's wider health. Headaches, mood swings and irritability are often indications of dehydration.
As we get wrapped up in an activity or task it is easy to forget to consume enough water, for adults and especially for children. Some children can often find consuming water difficult as it lacks flavour, so here are a few tips for helping to keep your child hydrated, so they can maximise their potential each day.
- Keep water close by: could you have a water jug on the table at mealtimes or throughout the day? Having a glass of water in front of us means we're more likely to take a sip instinctively, so hopefully there should be no need to persuade others to drink it.
- If drinking watery drinks is a challenge, try infusing it with fruit to make it look and taste more exciting. Slices of strawberries, kiwi fruit, lemons and cucumber add great flavour. If your child prefers fruit juice, try gradually diluting juice with water and even adding carbonated water and re-branding it as 'a special cocktail/mocktail'!
- Introduce a drinking routine. If your child regularly forgets to drink water, having a routine in place to ensure a glass of water is consumed at least first and last thing in the day, at mealtimes, before homework and Kumon-time and pre/post-exercise may help
- A child that is 'always hungry for snacks', could in fact, simply be thirsty. Try offering drinks instead of repeated snacks.
- Kumon students are undoubtedly hungry and a bit thirsty after their endeavours during their daily study, but try insisting they have a drink before studying too for a bit of extra "brain lubrication".
- Many fruits are high in water volume so offering a fruit salad for dessert or as a snack can help increase water intake. Soups and stews can also have similar benefits.
- Lead by example; the more your child observes you drinking, the more likely they are to imitate your behaviour and routines. On the days that you're home, try a family 'water drinking daily challenge' where children can visually check off each glass of water they, and you've each consumed.
- Your child's school and extra-curricular activities usually have a hydration policy in place. Check if your child can bring shatter-resistant containers of water with them and ensure to ask them how much they are drinking each day.