Thoughtful Parenting: Encourage children to drink water | SteamboatToday.com

Thoughtful Parenting: Encourage children to drink water

Beth Watson/For Steamboat Today

A cold drink of water tastes amazing on a hot summer day. Water is one of the most natural, healthy beverages children can drink. Encouraging children to quench their thirst with water will help them develop a taste for it, an important step toward life-long health.

Children need to drink water often during warm and cold weather. It's easier to become dehydrated at higher altitudes. Children are also more vulnerable to dehydration than adults, regardless of where they live. There are several reasons for this.

Growing children metabolize food at a higher rate than adults. Water is essential to metabolizing food and producing energy for growth, physical activity and brain function.

When adults are thirsty, they can help themselves to a drink of water, but children often have to ask their caregiver for help getting a drink.

Children also don't always recognize the early stages of thirst.

The amount of water a child needs depends on his or her age, gender, physical activities, general health and the weather. Milk, vegetable juice and fruit juice contain water and contribute to daily needs. Sugar-sweetened beverages and soft drinks aren't good substitutes for water.

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It's a good idea to talk with your child's doctor at his or her well-child check-up about how much water, milk and juice is needed for your child to stay healthy. The WIC program is also a good resource on the recommended amount of fluids for each age group.

Healthy babies don't require water, since breast milk and formula contain the water they need; too much water can cause dangerous health conditions. Always check with the baby's health care providers about when to begin offering plain water and how much to offer.

Try the following tips to keep your child hydrated:

• Encourage them to drink fluids in the morning to help them with mental focus during morning activities.

• Remind them to drink water throughout the day. Keeping them topped-off with water helps prevent them from suddenly "running out of steam." Research suggests that children who have a bottle of water at school have better concentration, visual attention, fine motor skills and short term memory.

• When children participate in sports or active outdoor play, they should drink before the activity begins, at regular intervals and at the end of the activity.

• The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends young athletes drink about 10 gulps of water every 20 minutes during an activity. An 88-pound child needs about five ounces of water every 20 minutes during a sport's activity.

• Water, not sports drinks, should be the principal source of hydration for children. Read labels on sports drinks and juice. The amount of carbohydrate in the drinks increases the risk of obesity and dental erosion.

• Avoid giving children energy drinks. Caffeine and other stimulants in these drinks pose a health risk.

• Small tastings of water may help children get used to the taste. A dislike for plain water can usually be overcome by repeating small tastes of water five to 10 times over a two-week period. Avoid pressuring children to drink water. Teach them by example-by, showing them your enjoyment of drinking water.

Beth Watson, RN, BSN, is a public health nurse at Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and a member of Routt County's Early Childhood Council, First Impressions. This article includes information from the American Academy of Pediatrics, http://www.SafeKids.org, Hydration 4 Health Initiative and the Natural Hydration Council.