“Water is important for all things to grow and is one of the body’s most essential nutrients,” says our in-house scientific advisor & pediatric specialist, Dr. Kyle Monk, MD. “Being properly hydrated has many advantages. Not only does drinking water help maintain a healthy weight, it also keeps the bones & teeth healthy, helps regulate blood pressure & circulation, transports nutrients to the cells & tissues, helps to regulate temperature, and improves focus & mood.”
Dehydration can become dangerous quickly. If children are dehydrated while playing outside in hot weather, they can quickly become overheated, which can lead to dizziness and fatigue, or even more dangerous side effects such as seizures or kidney failure. Signs of dehydration in children can include:
- Dry or sticky mouth
- No or few tears when crying
- Lack of urine or small, dark colored amount
- Eyes appearing sunken
- Rapid, deep breathing
But when kids are so busy having fun, how do you keep them hydrated? They can often be so distracted when they’re playing outdoor sports or splashing around in a pool that they forget to take in fluids. Younger children in particular don’t always communicate that they’re thirsty, which can be a problem. And when the sun is searing and the temperature’s rising, it’s important to take hydration seriously.
Here are a few quick and thirsty tips to keep kids hydrated and safe from overheating during the hot months.
Keep track of their water intake
It’s important to know how much water your child should be getting so you can keep track of how much they’re drinking. Dr. Monk recommends children aged between 1–3 years old drink about four cups of fluid per day (typically this works out as two cups of milk and two cups of water). For kids aged 4–8, five or more cups a day is recommended. And children over the age of eight should be drinking about eight cups per day. Of course, if they’re engaging in outdoor sports, they will probably want to drink a little more than the recommended amount.
Make their water fancy
Dr. Monk stresses that water is the best source of hydration for kids because it’s zero calories and has no added sugars (not to mention it’s cheap!). But what do you do if your child thinks water tastes boring? “Flavor their water by adding cucumbers, berries, mint, or other fruits to naturally flavor it,” suggests Dr. Monk.
Skip the soda
Avoid sugary drinks like soda and energy drinks as they often don’t hydrate. “They are usually filled with sugars and will curb their appetite from eating other preferable nutritious foods,” adds Dr. Monk. “These sugars can also predispose to cavities, weight gain, and nutritional deficiency.”
Make it fun
There are a lot of ways to make drinking water more appealing. Fun cups with their favorite characters on, or even cups they can decorate themselves will ensure they keep coming back for more sips. Silly, reusable straws are always a winner, too. You can also try chilling water with ice cubes with small pieces of fruit in the middle. Once the cubes melt, your little one can enjoy the fruit snack!
Encourage water breaks
“Before play and exercise, encourage your child to take in at least one cup of water,” advises Dr. Monk. “Plus frequent water breaks during play.” Small fruit snacks prior to exercise can also provide extra electrolytes and carbohydrates for a natural energy boost.
Keep them hydrated with food
Liquids aren’t the only way to stay hydrated. There are lots of foods you can use to “sneak” water into your little one’s system. Homemade ice pops are an obvious one, but also effective are fruits and veggies with high water content such as watermelon, cucumber, strawberries, celery, pineapple, and peaches.
If your child is showing mild signs of dehydration, it is best to correct it quickly. You can do so by removing them from excess heat and sitting in a cool space indoors. Give them one serving of an electrolyte-rich drink followed by 1-2 cups of water. If your child is showing signs of confusion, exhaustion, or more severe signs of dehydration, it’s best to contact your doctor urgently.