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9 Brilliant Tips for Getting Your Kids to Drink More Water

by Vannessa Rhoades 26 Jan 2023
9 Brilliant Tips for Getting Your Kids to Drink More Water

We all need water to grow and thrive. With zero added sugar and zero calories, plain water is without a doubt one of the healthiest, best drink choices for kids. Staying hydrated helps boost memory, mood, and attention span in children. It likewise helps blood circulation and keeps joints, teeth, and bones healthy. Clean tap water is also far more economical than buying pricey sodas, juices, and sports drinks.

How Much Water Children Need

Until about 6 months of age, babies have all their hydration needs met from bottle-feeding or nursing. After that, they’ll need only about 4 to 8 ounces per day until they’re a year old. Little ones aged 1 to 3 years require about 4 cups of fluid per day, including milk or water. By age 4, the requirement goes up to about 5 cups daily, increasing more as they get older. Individual needs may also be impacted by a child’s activity level and weather conditions (humidity, heat).

The amount of water an older child or teen needs each day is actually a bit higher than the recommendations in the chart below. That’s because the total amount of total fluid a person needs daily includes water from all sources: drinking water, other beverages, and food. Fruits and vegetables have a much higher water content than other solid foods. This keeps the calorie content of fruits and vegetables low while their nutritional value remains high — another excellent reason for children and teens to eat more from these food groups.

Kids Total Daily Beverage and Drinking Water Requirements

Age Range



4 to 8 years

Girls and Boys


9 to 13 years






14 to 18 years







Tips for Getting Your Kids to Drink More Water

While water doesn’t always sound like the most exciting beverage option, there are plenty of ways to encourage your kids to make healthy choices and stay hydrated. Here are a few ideas to entice your little ones to choose water.

  1. Set an example. The best way to get young children to drink more water is by taking drinking it yourself. Children learn by watching their caregivers, so keep a water bottle around to drink from throughout the day. 
  2. Fancy ice cubes. Freeze fruit inside ice cube trays to add a little flavor and fun to your drinks.
  3. Create a reward system or sticker chart. Reward them for drinking their water and praise them for giving you an empty water bottle to refill.

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  1. Add bubbles. Not everyone likes carbonation, but if your kids do, consider buying seltzer water for them. You can even flavor it by adding a splash of their favorite fruit juice.
  2. Infuse flavor. Add berries, cucumbers, citrus fruits, or mint to your water for a lightly flavored treat the whole family will enjoy.
  3. Personalized cups. Invest in little water bottles (about 4 to 8 ounces) that fit easily into small hands. Show your child how to fill their own cup at the faucet or water dispenser. 
  4. Stock up on juicy fruits and veggies. Keep them prepped and ready to eat in the fridge. Some of the best high-water-content vegetables include cucumber, zucchini, iceberg lettuce, celery, and tomato. For fruits, try watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries, and grapefruit.
  5. Make popsicles with pureed fruit. You can find popsicle molds in lots of fun shapes and colors.
  6. Silly straws. Keep a stash of fun reusable drinking straws on hand to encourage kids to keep up with their water intake. 

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Drinks to Avoid or Limit

Water and milk are really the only two drinks a child needs. Most other beverages, including those specially marketed toward children, have far more sugar than a child needs. Here’s what you should limit:

Juice (even 100% Juice)

While it may contain a few vitamins, juice is high in sugar and calories. It also lacks the nutritious fiber available in whole or pureed fruit. For a child who becomes acclimated to the sweet taste of juice, getting them to drink plain water may be a challenge. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following guidelines when it comes to offering children juice:

    • Children less than a year should not drink any juice at all.
    • Children 1 to 3 years of age should have no more than 4 ounces per day.
    • Juice is only recommended for older children when whole fruits are not available. For children ages 4 to 6 years, no more than 4 to 6 oz per day. For children ages 7 to 18 years, no more than 8 ounces per day.

Flavored milk

As with juice, flavored milk does offer some nutritional advantages, like vitamins and calcium. The trade-off, however, is much higher sugar content. This can also make it harder to get kids to drink “regular” milk once they’ve developed a preference for the sweeter stuff.

Sugary drinks

These should not be on the menu at all for children younger than two. Even older children should have them in only limited amounts. Lemonade, sports drinks, juice cocktails, and sweetened water are full of non-nutritive “empty” calories that may depress your child’s appetite for the healthy foods they actually need to consume. In addition, extra sugar can contribute to cavities, weight gain, blood sugar issues, and more.

Artificially sweetened drinks, diet drinks, and stevia

Avoid these for now. Researchers still don’t fully understand the potential health hazards of consuming artificial sweeteners and stevia.

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Getting Kids to Drink Water While Playing Sports or Exercising

Many kids need extra hydration during sports and other physical activities. Encourage them to hydrate before, during, and after their workout. Children aged 9 to 12 years should consume approximately 3 to 8 ounces of water per 20 minutes to stay hydrated when perspiring or during vigorous activity. Teenagers need 34 to 50 ounces an hour. Being well-hydrated in the days and hours leading up to the activity helps. 

Watch for Dehydration

Children who are very active — especially those who are playing outdoors in the heat of summer — may be at risk of dehydration. Some symptoms may include irritability, flushed skin, parched lips, dry mouth, and less urination or dark-colored urine. Monitor younger kids to keep an eye on their overall hydration status. For older children, explain that if their urine looks darker, it’s a sign they need to drink some water. 

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