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Wednesday, July 7, 2021

9 Tips for Encouraging Life-Long Healthy Hydration Habits in Children

Photo by jarmoluk (pixabay)

Kids should be drinking lots of water every day to stay hydrated and healthy. Staying well-hydrated is especially important in the summer or anytime a kid is particularly active. However, one recent study found that on any given day, 20% of American children don't drink a single drop of water. Instead, kids are turning to juice, soda, and other sugary drinks that don't offer the benefits of water. These drinks also contribute to obesity and can cause other health issues. However, as all parents know, it can be challenging to foster a habit of drinking water in kids. But there are things we can do as parents to make kids reach for water!

1. Set a Good Example!

The best way to get your kids to drink water is to model this behavior yourself. Instead of reaching for another coffee or soda, make a point of drinking water on a consistent basis around your kids. Not only is it setting a good example, but you'll be improving your own health in the process.

2. Make Sure Kids Have Access to Water

Everyone says they want kids to drink lots of water, but lots of kids don't have consistent access to cold, fresh water when they are thirsty. At home, make sure it's easy for kids to serve themselves water. Reach out to babysitters, teachers, and other people who care for your kids to make sure the messaging about hydration and access to water is consistent.

3. Let Kids Pick Fun Water Bottles

I carry my water bottle around in the same way I carry around my phone. It's something that's with me all the time, so along with making sure it's a good size and keeps my water cold, I wanted a bottle that looked good and matched my aesthetic. Kids are no different! A water bottle that they choose that represents some part of their personality or just looks cool is a water bottle they will carry around with them and actually use.

4. Try Frozen Fruit

Drinking plain water all the time can get a bit boring. Liven it up by switching out regular ice cubes for frozen fruit! Not only does it look pretty floating in your glass, but frozen fruit also adds a subtle flavor to the water without being unhealthy.

5. Use Natural Flavoring

Usually, a cold drink of water is exactly what I want when I'm thirsty or hot. Sometimes, though, I know I need to drink even when my body isn't sending strong thirst cues. That's when I break out some natural flavoring tricks to encourage myself to drink more. Drop in some mint leaves, add some cucumber, try a watermelon cube, or just add some lemon or lime slices. Suddenly, the water has a very different flavor without added sugar, corn syrup, or chemical sweeteners. It's a healthy trick your kids can use now and in the future.

6. Don't Stock Up on Sugary Drinks

The medical community agrees that sugary drinks are bad for kids. Even juice can be tricky: A lot of those products in the juice aisle are loaded with sugar and food coloring along with just a little bit of actual juice. But any parent can tell you how hard it can be to completely ban soda, sports drinks, or juice from their kids' diets. The answer is to treat these drinks like what they really are: sugary treats, just like ice cream, brownies, and other things we love but shouldn't eat every day. These things shouldn't be in your pantry or fridge on a regular basis, but having one now and then won't kill you.

7. Build in Drink Times

Sometimes, I don't realize I'm thirsty until I'm practically dehydrated. Kids also often struggle with recognizing thirst cues. To help with this, make drinking water part of their regular schedules. Drink water at meals, when they eat a snack, when they get home from school, and before and after playing. This way, even if they don't think they are thirsty, they are still getting the water they need to stay properly hydrated.

8. Take a Peek in the Toilet

When our children are first born, we monitor if they're staying hydrated by noticing how many wet diapers we change in a day. As kids get older, it's important to teach them to pay attention to how many times they use the bathroom in a day. If they hardly ever need to go, they probably need to drink more water. You can also teach kids to quickly peek at the color of their urine. If it's light, everything's fine, but if it's darker in color, drink more water.

9. Make It a Game

I have several apps on my phone that let me track how many glasses of water I have a day. My paper planner is also a good place to track how much I drink. Teach your kids to use something similar! Make a chart in the kitchen and let them mark each time they drink a glass of water. If they hit their goal, let them put a sticker on the day. It teaches them good tracking habits, ensures that they get enough water, and adds a little bit of fun to the routine.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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