Adequate fluid intake is important for maintaining health and well-being. Most school age children should have about one and a half liters of water per day with half of this during the school day. Children will need more than this if they are physically active, if the weather or classroom is hot, or if they are overweight.
Older children may also need more. However, many parents complain that their children are reluctant to drink with their drinks and say they do not feel thirsty. Not drinking enough can cause or exacerbate continence problems, as well as being the reason for headaches, feeling tired and struggling to concentrate.
What should my child be drinking?
Water is the best drink, as it does not contain any sugar or other additives. However, some children refuse to drink water. If this is the case for your child, you could try the following:
- Offer them water from the fridge or add ice cubes to it
- Use very dilute sugar-free fruit squashes as an alternative
- Do not offer your child fizzy drinks, except as a rare treat. Fizzy drinks can upset the bladder causing the child to have to rush to the toilet or go to the toilet more often
- Do not give your child drinks with caffeine in them. Caffeine can irritate the bladder
- Do not let your child have more than 500mls (one pint) of milk per day. This can exacerbate or cause constipation and may contribute to excessive weight gain.
How can I encourage my child to drink more?
Encouraging children to drink may be difficult, especially if they don’t feel thirsty. However, thirst is quite a late sign of needing fluids, so children should be drinking regularly – about six to eight drinks spread evenly throughout the day.
- Build drink times into your family’s routine.
- Make drink times fun: sitting together with a book or game and only read the next page or have your turn at the game when your child has had a few more sips. If your child won’t drink then put away the book or game until the next drink time.
- Let your child chose their glass, cup or straw.
- Start by expecting your child to drink only slightly more than they currently are and then gradually increase the amount you expect them to have until they are having about 1.5 litres per day.
- Some children manage better if given half a glass and told to drink it all; some do better if given a full glass and are asked to drink half of it.
- Measure out your child’s water in to a clean jug or plastic bottle each day, so they can see what they should be drinking. Pour all their drinks from that so they can see how well they are doing and offer them a small reward if they manage to drink it all.
- Do not have battles over drinks.
How can I encourage my child to drink more when at school?
- Ensure your child always has a sports bottle of water for school each day. Make sure they bring the bottle home at the end of the day and offer them a small reward for drinking most or all of it.
- If your child enjoys cold drinks, almost fill the water bottle and put it in the freezer overnight. The water will stay cold as it melts at school the next day.
- Ask the teacher to build drink times into the day, or to allow the children to have their water bottles on their desks.
- Ask the teacher to allow the children to use the toilet when they need to. If your child thinks they will not be allowed to go to the toilet, they might not drink at school.
Other things to consider
Do not encourage your child to drink in the hour before they go to bed as this may cause bedwetting or make it worse. If your child has a bladder or bowel problem, making sure they drink well during the day can help.