We all know how hard it is getting ourselves to drink enough water, let alone getting our kids to do it. Very often asking a child to take a moment out of playing their favorite outdoor game and drink some water will garner a reaction like you are from another planet (or you will just be plainly ignored). But it is necessary to keep an eye on kids’ hydration especially during the summer’s hot and humid months.
Dehydration can occur in under an hour depending on the time of day and the age of the child. The younger the child, the less efficient the body is in dealing with heat, and the faster dehydration can occur. Some signs of dehydration are fatigue or weakness, irritability or fussiness, nausea or stomach ache, muscle cramps, and dry mouth and lips.
It is best for children to drink before going out in the sun to play. While outside, it’s recommended for kids to find a shaded place to rest and rehydrate every 15 minutes with about 4 ounces of water, or 4 gulps. While rehydrating, they should take off their hats and helmets to allow heat to escape from their heads. Rather than focusing on a number of ounces a child should be drinking daily, it’s a good idea to focus on a child drinking small amounts of water throughout the day to stay continuously hydrated. In addition, kids should drink at each meal and snack.
Water is the best source of fluid for staying hydrated. Cold water absorbs even faster, thereby even better assisting with hydration. No-sodium seltzer is another great option.
It is a challenge to get kids to drink enough water, so some juice may be included in their fluid intake. Opt for juices labeled 100 percent juice. It is recommended to limit juice to about 6 ounces (about the size of a juice box) for kids under age 6, and to 8-12 ounces for kids over 6 years old. Store bought and homemade ices made with fruit juice can be used to increase fluid intake as well.
Juice ice cubes are usually a big hit with kids of all ages. Encourage your child to help you as you fill different juices into an ice tray. After they are frozen, add them to water or club soda. Juice ice cubes add fun colors and flavors to water and club soda. Lemon, lime, an orange wedge, or berries can be added to water for more flavor. Also, adding water or seltzer to juice cuts the sugar down but is still more flavorful than plain water. Allowing kids to choose their own special water bottle for the season or letting them decorate the bottle with stickers or painting their name on it can get them to drink more water as well. Colorful and loopy straws make staying hydrated fun too. Kids can also be rewarded for staying hydrated. For example, nothing motivates a kid like a sticker chart. Set one up that lets them see their daily hydration progress and work toward a prize at the end of the week.
Soda should be avoided as a source of hydration. It adds loads of sugar to a child’s diet, adds no nutritional value, and may contain caffeine, which dehydrates one’s body as opposed to hydrating it. Fruit ades (like orangeade or lemonade), juice cocktails, flavored waters, and sweetened iced teas are not recommended sources for staying hydrated. Sports drinks are generally not necessary.
Fruits and vegetables and some dairy products have a higher water content than refined foods, and can therefore help your child stay hydrated. In addition, fruits and vegetables contain electrolytes, which can be lost through sweating during intense heat. Some options that are easy to pack include cut-up grapes, cantaloupe, and watermelon. Other options include applesauce, green beans, carrots, and yogurt. An easy yogurt dip, hummus, or creamy salad dressing into which kidscan dip the vegetables can make eating them more fun. Yogurt, smoothies and homemade yogurt pops also have relatively high water content and can be helpful in staying hydrated.
Summer and outdoor play is fun for this time of year. Kids play their best when safe and well hydrated. They should drink water whether they feel thirsty or not; if they feel thirsty, they are already starting to get dehydrated.
Bess Berger is a Registered Dietitian and practices in Teaneck. She consults and counsels on general nutrition and medically-nutrition related issues. Bess can be reached at 20-837-0546 or bessbergerRD_gmail.com
by Bess Berger, RD