As temperatures rise and fluid needs climb, we need to be extra diligent with keeping our kiddos well hydrated. Here are my top tips, as a dietitian mom, for keeping little ones hydrated this summer!
The warm weather is finally here (yay!). As a mom of 3, I am definitely taking advantage of the sunshine and the ease the relaxed and flexible schedule of summer. But, as the temperatures rise, so does the risk of dehydration. The warmer it gets, the crucial it is to stay on top of fluids and hydrating foods.
The biggest risk is with little ones who are so wrapped up in the fun of the moment and don’t want to stop for a break or ignore feelings of thirst (which is so easy to do!). And to be honest, by the time a child tells you that they’re thirsty, they’re already dehydrated.
Why is fluid important?
Fluids (both coming from liquid beverages and hydrating foods) are essential for hydration. They:
- Help with digestion
- Move nutrients and waste through bodies
- Maintain healthy blood volume
- Help lubricate joints and body tissues (like the mouth, eyes and nose)
- Protect and cushion their joints and organs
- Control their body temperature.
How much does my child need?
Dehydration may present as a change in mood, peeing less, darker and stronger smelling urine, constipation, headaches and fatigue are common. To stay on top of it toddlers, and kids should be getting anywhere from 3.5-7 cups of fluid per day depending on age, gender and activity level, and even more if it’s hot outside!
Base fluid guidelines for kids are:
- 1-3 year-olds: 3.5 cups per day
- 4-8 year-olds: 5 cups per day
- 9-13 year-old girls: 6.5 cups per day
- 9-13 year-old boys: 7 cups per day
During the summer months, we’re outside more and tend to be more active, which means higher fluid losses. And again, for young kiddos, the excitement of summer activities — swimming in lakes with friends, playing on playgrounds and running through sprinklers – can distract from feelings of hunger or thirst. How many times have your kids come running into the house DYING of thirst? Mine have! So this is why we need to be one step ahead, reminding them to take sips of their water (or other hydrating fluids) frequently, and offering hydrating foods throughout the day as well.
I like to set a timer every 20 minutes to remind my kids to have a “water break”. Here are some other tips to help your kids stay hydrated:
“Level up” their water:
Raise your hand if you have a child who refuses plain water. While water is the best fluid option, it is not always a fan favourite. Consider some of these tips to level up your water.
- Slice up lemons, limes or oranges and let your little one squeeze the juice in and drop the fruit into their water. To top it off add a citrus wheel to the rim of an open cup. Extra enticing!
- Add berries, pineapple or melon and let it infuse the water with flavour
- Add some bubbles by diluting their favourite juice with sparkling water
- Try adding a splash of sparkling water to their plain water so they can see, feel and hear the bubbles
- Need a quick option on the go? There are some great juice boxes diluted with water that are great tasting and refreshing for all ages.
- For a different route try infusing water with cucumbers or some herbs like rosemary,
Up your ice cube game:
It seems simple, but adding ice cubes can be a game-changer! Having the jingle of ice in their water bottles, and most of all, fishing for ice in their glasses at the table using a spoon or their hands is pretty fun! Here are some ways to up the ice game:
- Grab some new ice cube trays to make some fun new ice cube shapes.
- Sprinkle some fruit like berries into the ice cube tray with water before freezing for a fun colourful addition to anyone’s water.
- Want to add a splash of juice? Try freezing their favourite juice into ice cubes and add them to their water to enhance the flavour and keep it cool.
- Note that some kids actually prefer room temperature fluids. So make sure to ask your kiddos which temperature they prefer (this will help them drink more!).
Be creative with the fluid vessel:
When we see it, we are more likely to drink it. Just making water bottles and cups more accessible and convenient can help. Consider a different way to offer up their favourite liquids!
- A bigger bottle that holds more water can be encouraging to drink more. It may also be overwhelming for some kids who prefer a smaller option that can be refilled. Consider if the size of the bottle is right for your child.
- Have a designated spot for their water bottle or a cup (they can reach) so when they are thirsty they know exactly where to go. If you’re able to, move their water bottles to where they are (let’s say on the play structure vs. the front yard) so that it’s within eyesight. When they see it, it will remind them to drink!
- Pull out the fancy glassware. My kids love drinking from my glass. Having their own in an adult glass or a cocktail glass adds that extra special factor with supervision of course! Go to the dollar store and grab plastic versions if you’re worried about accidents!
Don’t forget about other hydrating fluids and foods:
Yes, water is the best way to keep kids hydrated – there’s no doubt about that! But there are many fluids and foods that help with hydration too. Here are some examples:
- Fresh Fruit and Vegetables: Consider offering hydrating fruit and vegetables to their next meal and snack. Some of our favourites are: watermelon, cantaloupe, honey dew and cucumbers.
- Iced Teas: There are some great fruity caffeine free teas that make great water infusions, just steep and add ice for something different.
- Fruit Slushies: Have you ever tried to make your own fruit slushies? Freeze fruit puree in ice cube trays and then blend with fresh fruit. My favourite is watermelon a perfect way to use up the not so perfect watermelon.
- Smoothies: Refreshing and hydrating, smoothies can be a great summer snack option. Smoothies are a great way to use up extra produce or easy-to-store options like canned and frozen fruit. Don’t forget to add those “satiating ingredients” (protein, fiber and fat) such as tofu, nut butters, milk, Greek yogurt, hemp hearts, chia seeds etc.
Popsicles: Got smoothie leftovers? Don’t let them go to waste! Add them to your favourite popsicle mold for some fun hydrating homemade popsicles.