There’s a reason why water is an integral part of every religion. It is the fountainhead of life and the source of all growth. But helping toddler drinking too much water is a job easier said than done. Water for toddlers not only makes muscles function efficiently, it also helps the brain to function optimally. It isn’t uncommon for parents to believe that it is alright for their children to skip on water as long as they’re drinking milk or other flavored beverages. While it is true that milk, juice, and other soft drinks contribute to the body’s water requirement; their intake should be limited.
How Much Water Should A Toddler Drink A Day?
Although there’s not much clarity of the ideal quantity of water, pediatricians all over the world agree that the age between 1 to 3 is the perfect time to inculcate among children the habit of drinking water.
What is the recommended water intake per day for toddlers. The USDA recommends that children in the age group of 1 to 3 should drink around five and a half cups of water every day. But this can come from a mix of beverages like milk and juice, besides the water from foods (1).
The American Association of Pediatricians (AAP) advises parents to limit juice/flavored milk to just 4-6 ounces a day. They recommend 100% juice rather than soft drinks or soda. As for the flavored milk, AAP urges parents to stick to low fat, low sugar milk (2).
Besides water, milk is a healthy choice, but milk intake should be limited to 16 to 24 ounces per day. Water requirement also varies depending on the climate or the physical activities of the child. For instance, when the weather is hot outside, children run a risk of dehydration. They do not sweat like adults, and hence their body takes time to cool. Such children may need extra fluids to prevent exhaustion and dehydration.
Similarly, when it is too cold, the dry weather outside may cause children to sweat and become dehydrated. Children engaged in a physical activity should stay hydrated. Make sure that you offer a minimum of 4 ounces of water every 15 minutes or whenever the child is thirsty. If your kid has cold, he/she should also be encouraged to drink plenty of water to keep membranes moist thereby preventing further infection. Diarrhea and vomiting also cause dehydration. Increase fluid flow if the child is unwell.
Types Of Drinks You Can Give To Your Toddler:
As earlier said, plain water need not be the only source of water, although it is the best choice for your child. Toddlers, accustomed to drinking juices and soft drinks often become poor water-drinkers as adults.
The proportion of water obtained from food is directly proportional to the fruits and vegetables included our diet, says an article published by the US National Institute of Health Journal (3).
Thus, fruits like cantaloupe, watermelon and strawberries contain almost 90-99% water. Similarly, vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, and spinach contain an equal amount of water. Water content in biscuits and cakes ranges between 20-29%.
Although a single glass of juice contains about five (recommended) daily portions of fruits and vegetables, it lacks fiber (4). A diet low on fiber is a major reason for constipation among children. Water sourced from food should be around one and half cups, says the USDA.
If your child isn’t enthusiastic about drinking milk, yogurt is a healthy alternative. Avoid fizzy drinks and sugary juices as they damage teeth and cause obesity.
[ Read: Yogurt Based Foods For Toddlers ]
Encouraging Your Toddler To Drink Water:
When it comes to encouraging children to drink water, the golden rule of parenting applies – Practice What You Preach! Children find it easy to accept things when you lead by example; hence make sure that you say yes to plain water than sugary or fizzy drinks.
1. Introduce the Fun Element:
Serve water in colorful bottles and glasses. Sippy cups or straw cups with your child’s favorite cartoon characters are also a good idea. Children, especially toddlers love to play with pots and pans. Use this as an opportunity and fill spoons and spatulas with a little water. But you’ll have to careful about the utensils they use (bowls, spoons and spatulas are safe, but pots and pans aren’t).
2. Make Water Readily Available:
Keep water bottles around the house, especially in the bedroom and the living room. Toddlers are a busy lot and tend to ignore thirst. Placing a bottle of water close to the child signals his mind to reach for it when thirsty.
Feed Them Water-rich Food: Include fruits like watermelon and strawberries in a child’s diet. Soups offer nourishment and a great idea to fill kids with fluids.
3. Offer Healthy Alternatives:
Buttermilk or chaas is a great coolant and aids in digestion. It also helps combat dehydration and is a great source of calcium (without the fat found in milk and yogurt). Jal Jeera is another effective thirst quencher. It not only helps the body to cool, but also combats acidity. As children, we were regularly made to drink neeragaram. Water was added to steamed parboiled rice to allow overnight fermentation. This water was consumed in the morning with a few curry leaves added for extra flavor. Neeragaram is a good probiotic and helps improve the gut flora.
[ Read: Nutritional Requirements For Toddlers ]
Do’s and Don’ts When Getting Kids Into Drinking Water:
Sippy Cup Alert: Sippy cups help children make the transition from bottles to cups. But overusing these cups can lead to dental problems. Avoid service juice or sugary beverages in these cups, especially before bedtime. Serve only water in sippy/straw cups.
Avoid Tea, Coffee and Liquids Containing Caffeine: Tea, coffee and liquids containing caffeine are stimulants and hence not suitable for children. These beverages cause temporary alertness, but may later make them drowsy and dull. Similarly, energy drinks contain high amounts of sugar and are hence not suitable for children.
Now you know how much water should a toddler drink per day. So what has been your experience in getting your children to drink water? Share your stories with us.