The average adult needs to drink at least 6 – 8 cups of water (1.6 – 2 litres) a day – more if you’re a pregnant or breastfeeding mum, or a man. Water is vital to the body’s survival, is needed to prevent dehydration and constipation, regulate body temperature, and aid with the digestion, absorption and transportation of essential nutrients to all parts of the body. In case you didn’t know, 50 – 70% of your body is water! How about children?
How much water should your child be drinking?
We’re talking about plain water here, by the way. Fruit juices, soft drinks, sports drinks, and even flavoured mineral waters don’t really count. Consumption of such beverages does provide water for the body but brings with it a lot of unnecessary chemicals and unhealthy sugars.
If your child is 6 months or younger and fully breastfed, he should be getting all the water that he needs from breastmilk. They do not need any extra water because they should be getting all their fluids from breastmilk or formula.
For babies above 6 – 12 months, it’s alright to give them sips of water if they are thirsty. Also, introducing some water in a sippy cup can help them get used to the taste and consistency of the liquid.
For babies 12 months – 36 months, to quench their thirst, you can offer milk with meals and water.
After your little one’s first birthday, when he or she has begun to eat on solids and drinking whole milk, you can let them drink as much water they like.
Important Reminder! Your child would need to drink more water on a hot day or after exercise. Remember that your body needs fluid regularly throughout the day, not just when you feel thirsty. In fact, if you reach the point that we feel thirsty, you are already 2% dehydrated.
Instead of using your child’s thirst as an indicator to drink more, look at his urine colour. Clear or lightly coloured urine means your child is adequately hydrated, while a darker yellow colour indicates dehydration*.
Getting my children to drink enough
It’s not easy to get young kids to drink enough water. Reasons range from disinterest to distaste, and oftentimes, they are just too busy playing to stop for a drink!
Here are a few tips for encouraging your child to drink his water.
- Pack a water bottle whenever you go out. If your child doesn’t usually carry a bag, buy a bottle that comes with a strap so he can sling it over his shoulder easily.
- Dilute any juices or soft drinks that your child consumes.
- Encourage your child to take short breaks from play times to drink at least a few mouthfuls of water.
- At home, have a personal jug of water for your child to drink from, which you top up in the morning. This will help him (and you) keep track of whether he’s drinking enough every day.
- Never offer sweet drinks as part of daily meal-times – always serve them water. Even if they take milk or milo for breakfast, you can offer a cup of water alongside.
- Lead by example. Every time you’re tempted to reach for another can of coke, remember two (or more) little eyes are watching you. Have a glass of ice cool water instead!
*Do note that certain supplements do contribute to urine discolouration. For example, if you are giving your child Enervon, you will find his urine is a bright yellow! Nothing to be alarmed about.
By Dorothea Chow.
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