Healthy Hydration: Why Children Need Extra Help Staying Hydrated

As every parent, grandparent or babysitter knows, kids have a mind-boggling amount of energy. They can run around playing for hours on end – working up quite a thirst in the process.

It is vital that our children have access to water and regularly drink for their own well-being, health and development. And with a bit of thought and planning, it can also be something that kids really enjoy.

And it isn’t just high energy levels that make it so important for children to remain well hydrated. There are a number of other reasons why we need to make sure that young people keep their water levels topped up.

Kids can forget they’re thirsty…

A large part of our body weight is made up of water – the average adult is 60% H2O. But for children the figure is much higher: nearly 80% water at birth and about 75% water by the time they reach primary school age.

Due to all their activity, children are also more susceptible to dehydration because they tend to lose water more quickly than adults.

Kids also tend to forget that they are thirsty, as they are too busy being, well, kids! Exploring the world, having fun and forgetting to tell us that they need to rehydrate.

Research has shown that this can have some adverse health effects on children including on their mental performance (e.g. Goodman et al. 2013).

Better mental performance

Good hydration is also important for children’s mental performance at school.

Recent studies (e.g. Khan et al. 2015 and Booth et al. 2012) have shown that inadequate water intake and dehydration have a negative impact on mental and school performance.

Researchers from the University of California, Davis and Nestlé collaborated on a study that tested the benefits of water drinking on working memory and attention among 52 children aged 9-12 years old.

The children performed cognitive tests at the start of the morning before breakfast, and at the end of the morning, after they each drank 750ml of water over a two-and-a-half hour period. They repeated the process on a different day without the water. The team monitored their hydration status by testing urine samples.

The results showed that it is important for children to keep well-hydrated over time. Those kids who showed smaller fluctuations in hydration status after drinking the water did significantly better in cognitive tests than during the non-water drinking day.

Healthy drinking habits

When we talk about a healthy diet the focus is often on food – but it is important to keep an eye on what children drink too.

Water is the perfect source of hydration given that it is calorie and sugar-free. And drinking ‘plain old H20’ doesn’t have to be boring…

Try getting your kid a special new cup or using paper straws. Or float slices of fruit or different-shaped ice cubes in a jug of water to engage a child’s interest.

Kids respond really well to simple changes like this that make drinking water far more interesting.