With children back to the school routine, parents have a million things to be juggling. Hydration is an important topic when it comes children’s health. Children are at a greater risk of dehydration than adults as they have higher water requirements in relation to their body weight. Whilst adults generally have good access to supplies of water, for children this is not always as easy. Children usually have to ask to be provided with water, often relying on their parents or guardians to provide drinks.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends children aged 4-13 years old should aim to drink 5 to 8 200 ml glasses of water per day, on top of the water provided by food sources. Whilst they can meet their body’s water requirements from other drinks, water is one of the healthiest ways to hydrate as it has no calories or sugar. Foods can also contribute to daily water intakes. Those with a high water content; for example melon, soups, stews, fruit and vegetables, will make the greatest contribution.
Research suggests that mild dehydration (1% body weight loss) can lead to reductions in concentration and cognitive function in children. Studies suggest that children’s cognitive function can be improved when they are given access to water. A recent study carried out by psychologists at the University of East London and University of Westminster shows that drinking just 300ml of water (slightly over half a small bottle of water) can boost attention by almost 25%. The researchers drew their conclusions after carrying out a series of attention and memory tests on young adults (mean age 21 years) before drinking water, after consuming 25ml and then 300ml. The findings also showed that after drinking 300ml, thirst was satisfied and reports of ‘good mood’ increased by almost 20%. The same tests were carried out on children aged 7 to 9, and scientists saw a 31% improvement in attention after only 25ml of water consumption – compared to 12% in young adults.
Children’s drinking habits can be significantly influenced by what their parents are drinking, according to a recent report; Drink as I do: The influence of parents’ drink choices on children. On average, children are twice as likely (96%) than other children to drink something that their parents drink frequently. Fizzy drink habits appear to have the biggest influence, with children whose parents drink fizzy drinks often, almost three times (192%) more likely to drink fizzy drinks than other 4-8 year olds. Where parents drank fruit juice, children were more than twice as likely (115%) to also drink fruit juice. This shows how parents habits could cause children to fall out of line with the latest healthy eating recommendations.
- Start the day with a glass of water. Ensure the whole family drinks water at breakfast, so everyone starts the day well hydrated.
- If you child’s school allows water in the classroom, include a bottle of water in their school bag. Children might also enjoy decorating their own water bottle which could encourage them to drink more water during the day.
- Always offer water at mealtimes –it will also help those vegetables taste less bitter if children are drinking something plain.
- Start a ‘water chart’ and see which member of the family drinks the most.
- Fun ice cubes can turn a glass of water into an adventure. Fill an ice tray with slices of strawberries, grapes, blueberries or raspberry before putting it in the freezer.