5 Parenting Hacks to Keep Toddlers Hydrated & Drinking More Water
Updated May 10, 2023.
It can be hard for toddlers to understand why drinking water is important. But it's your job as a parent to make it their habit and explain to them what happens if they don't drink water.
All living things need water to survive. Next to milk, water is the healthiest drinking option for children—it's calorie-free, sugar-free, and loaded with essential minerals. Particularly, mineral water supports healthy bones, teeth, and joints, aids in critical development and bodily functions, and helps children maintain a healthy weight into adulthood. The right amount of water a child needs depends on their age, weather, and their activity levels.
Recommended Water Intake for Kids by Age Group
The amount of water your toddler needs also depends on the weather and their activity levels. Kids need even more water when exercising. Your toddler should drink filtered water before, during, and after physical activity—even if they aren’t thirsty because it helps to prevent dehydration during the activity and overhydration afterward. Proper hydration is essential, and it is especially important for toddlers to drink water for several reasons:
- Prevention of Dehydration: Toddlers are at a higher risk of dehydration than adults because their bodies have a higher proportion of water. Their active lifestyle also means they lose more fluids through sweating, urination, and breathing. Drinking water helps prevent dehydration, which can lead to fatigue, irritability, and other health problems.
- Brain Development: Water is crucial for the proper development of the brain and nervous system. Adequate water intake can enhance cognitive function, concentration, and memory in toddlers.
- Tooth Decay Prevention: Drinking water can help prevent tooth decay in toddlers by washing away food particles and bacteria that cause cavities. This is particularly important for toddlers who consume sugary drinks or snacks.
- Developing Healthy Habits: Encouraging toddlers to drink water from an early age can help them develop healthy hydration habits that can benefit them throughout their lives. It can also establish a preference for water over sugary drinks, leading to better overall health.
Below is a rough guideline for daily water intake needed for kids of different ages:
- 6 months: Babies can start drinking water at 6 months old. They only need 4 to 8 ounces a day until they turn one because they get the rest of their hydration from formula or breast milk.
- 1-3 years: 4 glasses
- 4-8 years: 5 glasses
- 9-12 years: 7 glasses
- 13+: 8 to 10 glasses
6 Ways to Get Your Toddlers Drinking More Water
If you're concerned that your child doesn't want to drink water or might not be drinking enough water, here are a few tips on how to hydrate a toddler that won’t drink.
1. Make It Fun With Games
Making drinking water a fun game can be a great way to encourage your toddler to drink more water. Here are some ideas for making drinking water fun:
- Use fun cups or water bottles: Choose cups or water bottles with your toddler's favorite colors, characters, or designs. You can also let them pick out their own cup or water bottle to make it more exciting.
- Play "sip and say": Take turns saying a word or phrase and then taking a sip of water. This can be a fun game that encourages your toddler to drink water while also improving their speech and language skills.
- Use colorful ice cubes: Add a few drops of food coloring to water and freeze it in ice cube trays. Your toddler will be excited to see the colorful ice cubes in their cup and will enjoy watching them melt as they drink.
- Have a water race: Fill two cups with water and give one to your toddler and one to yourself. See who can finish their cup of water first. This can be a fun game that encourages your toddler to drink water while also spending time with you.
- Make it a challenge: You can also turn it into a game by challenging your child to drink to a certain level of the cup or bottle. For example, if the bottle has Dora the Explorer printed on the front, encourage your child to drink their water until they reach the bottom of Dora’s shoe.
2. Try Giving Them Fruit-Infused Water
Many children don’t like the taste of plain water, so try to give them some fruit-infused water instead. You can also freeze some fruit into ice cubes or use exciting-shaped ice.
3. Offer Them Water Regularly Throughout the Day
Making water readily available is a good way to encourage your child to drink it. Always make sure to offer them water regularly throughout the day and have their bottle or a glass of water within reach at all times. There are minerals in tap water, so if you live in an area with clean water, or even if you have water filters, teach your child how to pour water themselves from the faucet.
4. Have the Potty Talk
You can also turn this into a game. Teach your child that they can tell how much water they’ve been drinking by the color of their urine. Dark-colored urine means not enough water, and light-yellow urine means that they're winning at the water game. If your child is a little older, explain to them that if their urine is darker, they should grab some more water.
5. Lead By Example
Modeling healthy behaviors is a powerful way to encourage your toddler to adopt good habits, including drinking water. Toddlers learn by observing the behavior of those around them, and when they see their parents drinking water, they are more likely to do the same.
By drinking more water in front of your toddler, you can show them that drinking water is a normal and healthy part of daily life. This can help them develop positive associations with drinking water and be more willing to drink it themselves.
6. Get Them a Fun Drinking Device
Purchasing a fun drinking device for your toddler can be a great way to encourage them to drink more water. Here are a few ideas for fun drinking devices:
- Sippy cups: Sippy cups are designed to be spill-proof and are a great option for toddlers who are learning to drink from a cup. They come in a variety of colors, designs, and sizes, so you can choose one that your toddler will love.
- Water bottles: Water bottles with fun designs or characters can make drinking water more exciting for toddlers. Look for water bottles that are easy for your toddler to hold and drink from, and that have spill-proof lids.
- Fun straws: Straws can make drinking water more fun for toddlers. Look for straws with fun designs or colors or that are shaped like animals or characters.
- Reusable pouches: Reusable pouches with a spout can be a fun way for toddlers to drink water on the go. You can fill them with water or homemade fruit juice for a healthy and hydrating snack.
Nurture Healthy Hydration Habits
Getting your toddler to drink water is important for their overall health and well-being. Children are often at risk of dehydration, especially when playing sports in hot weather. By the time they feel thirsty, they're likely already dehydrated. It's up to you as the parent to make sure your child is drinking enough water. When getting your child to drink water, start with yourself and be an example of the behavior you'd like them to follow.