How to Get Your Kids to Drink Water

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When my oldest was little, I could not get him to drink water.

The pediatrician’s idea? Stop giving him juice.

“But then what will he drink? He doesn’t like water.”, I asked.

His reply?

“He’ll drink anything if he’s thirsty enough.”

Almost 20 tough-love years later, and he is indeed an avid drinker of water. And yes, he stopped craving juice, because water was the only choice. It took a while, but it worked.

Here are a few ideas I’ve used to get my kids to drink water and stay hydrated, especially in the summer months.

1- A fun cup

Choose for your child or if they are old enough, have them choose a fun cup that will keep their interest in drinking as well as keep their water cold. A great cup, preferably with a straw option, can help encourage them to drink more. I cannot recommend the Tervis type cups enough. They are double-walled, and keep the drinks cold, even when they are left in the car for a while. My daughter loves her LSU Tigers cup (like Mommy’s) and with the straw feature, I find she is drinking more water than she has since she’s been alive. Sometimes 2-3 Tervis cups full a day. That’s more than most adults.

2- Popsicles in the freezer

Flavor your water with fresh fruit juice or frozen chunks of fruit and then freeze them into popsicle molds. Your older kids can access them when they are outside playing on hot days. When our boys were little, I kept popsicles in the freezer outside in the garage and the one inside as well. My kids stayed hydrated in the Florida summers and were encouraged to share the treats with their friends. The goal was hydration and avoiding heat stroke. It got them to stop, get some fluids in their body, and stand in the shade of the garage or front door for at least ten minutes. To me, that’s a win, even if it came at the hands of a sugary and even at times, nasty food-dye cold treat. Hey, if I could afford Dole Fruit bars all summer long, I would! However opting to make them homemade is a great option, just not as convenient all the time. So find what works for you and your kids and make it happen.

3-Drink water yourself

I realize not all of us love water. I have friends who really struggle to drink plain water. My Mom has to have pretzels by her drinking glass, just to get the liquid gold in her. If its hard for you too, flavor your water with lemon or cucumber. Throw in some frozen berries, a dash of Hibiscus tea, or drink sweet tea. If you love water though, get a great cup like your kids and drink, drink, drink. Let them see you do it. My LSU Tervis is literally an accessory. It goes with me everywhere, just like my purse and my phone. It’s so much cheaper than water bottles, less wasteful, and I get to show my school pride all at the same time. Win-Win!

4- Make it a competition

Set a timer for drinking their water and see if your kids can beat the timer. “Let’s see if you can finish that water before snack time is over.” or “Can you give your best effort to finish all your water before we leave for the beach?” Kids love games, so make it a game Momma. This is goal setting at its slickest. At times I will have my daughter drink down to a certain point on her cup before she can be excused from lunch, or she may have to finish what is left in her cup before going outside or doing a physical activity. Explain to them why it is important to be hydrated. When it’s their idea, they own it and you’ll see them making good choices without a competition.

5-Be aware of hidden waters

Don’t forget that juice, water, popsicles, soup, even tea and coffee all count toward the necessary liquid a body needs. Fruit that is juiced, or eaten are all great ways of getting water into your kids. Slices of cool watermelon, pieces of juicy orange, sweet grapes, and even fun kiwi, can give your kids added liquid refreshment. Cucumbers are also a great way to introduce veggies and quench the thirst as well. A fruity herbal tea, cooled, such as hibiscus or peppermint, may encourage a picky drinker to drink more often. Do what works.

As with any improvements in health, it is always easy to become too rigid. There will be an article to counter every other article you read on just about every health issue. Educate yourself, then do what works for you. Some people think coffee and tea should never be counted as daily water intake, but I disagree. Weight Watchers taught me this. When you make water or tea, what do you pour into the pot in order to make it?

Water.

A lot of research into the brain development of previously institutionalized children shows that their brains developed in a dehydrated environment. Keeping them hydrated is essential to emotional and physical well-being for these amazing kids.

It took a few years before we could get our daughter from Henan to drink regularly. The research of Dr. Karyn Purvis with Empowered to Connect, has taught me a lot about the importance of hydration especially for adopted and fostered kids. We go no where without a water bottle for my daughter and snacks. The dehydration and hunger triggers the part of their brain that is still in the primal state (back of the brain/fight or flight), so when they get hungry or thirsty, things can escalate quickly because their brains default to this place. Children in tantrums have expressed they felt thirsty and hungry when they were in this state of mind. If you are an adoptive parent, I encourage you to visit Dr. Karyn Purvis’ website and learn all you can about the links between behavior and dehydration.

Give your best effort in finding the cleanest, purest forms of water, limiting the sugars that go into your water-based foods and drinks. You would never want to double and triple your sugar intake all because you are drinking more! But don’t be too rigid either. My daughter loves sweet tea. We don’t make it syrupy sweet like the tea I grew up on in the South. So occasionally, if we have a pitcher, I’ll let her have some. One of my sons, is not a huge water drinker, but he loves sweet tea. I encourage him to alternate tea and water and he gives it his best shot. The Tervis cup, by his own admission, transformed the amount of liquid he is consuming. At this rate, that alone is my health goal for him, more hydration.

This could be a really fun summer project for Moms and kids to work on together. Don’t forget to make it fun, experiment, and stay cool!

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Comments

  1. I’ve been thinking of writing a post just like this! It is soooo important to stay hydrated, especially this time of year. We are in Arizona so it’s over 100 everyday. We all have our water bottles we carry every where we go.

    I Love your tips. I was just thinking of making Popsicles.

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