It’s hot out, finally! So it’s a critical time of year to make sure your kids stay properly hydrated. Younger children are at higher risk for dehydration because they don’t sweat as efficiently as adults and also have smaller fluid reserves. Not to mention, they may not think to ask for a drink as often as they need it. That means parents need to be on the alert.
According to Canadian Community Health Survey data, children are not meeting their fluid requirements. Half of their fluids should come from water, and yet only 30-35% actually do. That means that more fluids are coming from other sources, like milk, fruit juice and sodas. Sunnybrook Registered Dietitian Annie Hoang says to avoid the latter two options, as well as energy drinks in kids as they can be laden with sugar, caffeine and other additives. When it comes to sports drinks, she says they are often unnecessary and should be reserved for high intensity activities. And while beverages are the best way to hydrate our bodies, don’t overlook foods with high water content. Fruits and vegetables, soups, stews, fruit pops and even Jell-O fit the bill.
So how much fluid is enough? Generally, kids aged 1 to 3 will need 3.5 cups daily, those aged 4 to 8 will need 5 cups daily and those aged 9 to 13 will need about 7 cups per day. Some telltale signs of dehydration include thirst, dry lips or tongue, flushed skin and darker colored or less frequent urination.
Hoang says to offer a beverage at every meal and snack, to remind kids every 30 minutes during play and to make sure they have a water bottle close at hand. She also says they’ll be more likely to drink if parents make it fun. Try carbonation, use straws, freeze fruit into ice cubes, add citrus slices into clear drinking cups and let kids pick out their own reusable drinking bottle. And of course, monkey see, monkey do: keep yourself hydrated and set a good example at the same time.