What About Hydration for Kids?

We all know it’s important to hydrate ourselves during the hot summer months, but we need to remember even more for our kids!  With all the activities and fun of summer days, we often overlook the importance of pushing fluids.  The amount a child needs to drink can vary greatly, due to factors including age, gender, the weather, and how much physical activity they do.  

The hydration needs of children are not that different from those of adults.  Some studies have suggested that infants and children are more susceptible to dehydration because of their smaller body weights, higher turnover of water and electrolytes and lower capacity for sweating.  However, newer research shows that children’s and adolescents’ ability to regulate body temperature is similar to that of comparably fit adults exercising under the same conditions.

General hydration guidelines from the U.S. Institute of Medicine, suggest healthy 4- to 8-year old children need about 7.5 cups of fluid per day, while 9- to 13-year old children and 14- to 18-year-old females need about 10 cups; males 14 to 18 years of age need about 14 cups.  Like adults, children will usually meet their hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide.  But sometimes (like in very hot/active conditions or when we are sick) that thirst mechanism is not reliable and can lead to dehydration.

So in order to stay well, here are some tips for keeping kids hydrated:

  1. Aim to hydrate children throughout the day with plain, natural drinking water that is unsweetened and free from additives.  If your child does not like “plain water”, continue to offer it to him/her.  Consider offering it in an exciting cup, add natural fruit flavors (like lemon, lime, or watermelon juice), or offer with a straw for fun!
  2. Starting with breakfast, children should aim for 7-10+ drinks per day from water, milk, and 100% fruit juices.
  3. Children participating in sports or extreme temperatures need to be especially attentive to drinking more water all day long.
  4. Monitor a child’s hydration level with noting his/her urine color.  Dark urine may indicate inadequate hydration.