How to Get Kids to Drink More Water

girl drinking water at a table outdoors
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Whether or not your child is an athlete, it's important that they drink enough water. Proper hydration is essential to every system in our bodies. Your child's exact water intake needs can vary based on their height and weight, biological sex, activity level, and even the weather.

In general, kids between the ages of 4 and 8 need about 7 cups of water a day, 9 to 13-year-old females need about 9 cups, and males around 10. Older kids and teens between ages 14 and 18 need around 10 cups (for females) and 14 cups (for males.)

If that sounds like a lot, remember that total water intake recommendations include all sources—drinking water, other beverages, and food. Some kids will get more or less water from food or other beverages. Checking the color of your child's urine can be a more accurate way to see if they're adequately hydrated.

These recommendations can vary from child to child. If you're concerned that your child might not be drinking enough water, here are some strategies that might help you encourage them to hydrate.

Use an App

If your child has a smartphone or tablet, you can download a water-tracking and reminder app for them. The goal is to make remembering to drink water fun, not to make them feel scared or like it's punitive.

There are lots of free and paid options, but here are a few of the more kid-friendly apps:

  • Carbodroid. Instead of a plant, power up a cute little robot with this Android app. It also offers reminders and has a simple, straightforward interface.
  • Plant Nanny. Choose a seedling and help it grow by tracking your water intake. This is a free app, which means it does have ads and upsells. It also doesn't offer reminders as other hydration apps do. Still, it's cute, fun, and makes the process of drinking water more visual.

Make sure that your child isn't using any water tracking apps that bring in diet culture messaging, relate water intake to weight, body size, and so on.

Add Some Variety

For kids and adults alike, adding flavor, ice, or bubbles to water can be a fun change of pace. Here are some simple options you can try:

  • Bubbles. Not everyone is a fan of carbonated water but if your kids like it, consider buying seltzer water for them or investing in a Sodastream for your family. It allows you to bottle your own fizzy water at home. If you'd like to flavor it, you can add a splash of their favorite fruit juice.
  • Fancy Ice Cubes. You can find trays that make cool cubes for Lego lovers, Star Wars fans, and creative types (make suns, stars, trees, flowers, and sea life. You can also make good old rectangular ice and add fruit, mint leaves, or a splash of fruit juice for a hint of flavor and burst of color.
  • Fruit Garnish. Instead of adding fruit to your ice, you can also take a cue from fancy spas and beach resorts, and add it directly to your water. Drop sliced fruits or berries right into your water pitcher, or try a water bottle with a built-in infuser.
  • Fun straws. Finding a reusable straw that your child gets excited to use can help encourage them to drink more water.

Get Fun Bottles

A cool or cute bottle can encourage kids to drink more water, and so can having a special bottle or cup that you carry with you all the time. Plus, refillable bottles don't generate waste.

Your kids might prefer a straw cup or a small bottle or cup that they fill up frequently. Sometimes that's less intimidating than a grown-up size serving. Have a stash of fun reusable drinking straws at home to prompt them to keep up with their water intake.

Set a Hydration Example

You and the other adults in your child's life can set an example by regularly reach for water, bring a water bottle along with them, seek out water fountains, etc.

Make it more fun for your entire family to reach their daily water goals by putting together a sticker chart.

Have the Potty Talk

Dark-colored urine can be a sign of dehydration, while lighter colored pee is a sign that your body is getting the hydration it needs. You'll need to help young kids check and keep tabs on their general hydration status. For older kids, explain that if their urine looks darker, they should grab a glass of water or refill their water bottle.

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Article Sources
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  1. National Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 2005. doi:10.17226/10925

  2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Water: How Much Do Kids Need?. Updated January 22, 2020.