Children don’t get as thirsty in the winter as they do playing in the hot sun during the summer. Parents and other childcare workers don’t think about the need to stay hydrated as much, although children still need to be watched for signs of dehydration that can come about after illnesses such as a cold or the flu. These illnesses can easily cause dehydration. Knowing the signs of dehydration is important.
Signs of dehydration
Some of the most obvious signs your child is dehydrated include:
- Parched mouth and dry, chapped lips
- Need to urinate less frequently and urine is dark yellow or has a strong odor
- Your child plays less and seems more listless
- Crying produces less tears
- The soft spot on a baby’s head appears sunken
If you suspect your child may be hydrated, take him or her to the hospital immediately.
How Much Is enough
The first step in providing adequate hydration is to know how much your child should have. The general guidelines are:
- 1-3 years old – four cups liquid plus 1.5 cups through food
- 4-8 years old – five cups of liquid plus two cups through food
- 9-13 – eight cups of liquid plus 2.5 through food
Water rich foods include:
- Cooked squash
Preventing dehydration is the best course of action and isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Between drinking plenty of liquids and eating food high in water content, you can help provide the needed hydration. Add the following tips and you will have one less thing to worry about.
Things you can do
If you are a parent or childcare giver, there are a few things you can do to help make sure the children in your care are getting the appropriate amount of hydration to keep them both healthy and active. Here are just a few:
Keep water handy
If water is nearby, an active child will drink it rather than take the time from play to look for something else. Try keeping a water bottle full and always available wherever the child is spending time in play. If you are in the car, keep a bottle of water handy and keep one beside the child’s bed at night. You can even set alarms to remind your child to take a drink and childcare providers can include regular drink breaks in the daily routine.
Lunchtime is an especially good time to provide foods such as soups and smoothies. These items contain mainly liquid, are loved by most kids and help add to the days hydration quota.
Instead of providing access to things like pretzels and chips, keep your refrigerator full of things like cut up fruits and vegetables that can provide added hydration. Kids won’t be tempted to eat what isn’t there. Make sure the foods are small enough to eat with fingers so they are easy to manage and more appealing to young children.
Instead of providing a variety of drinks such as juices or soda, automatically go for the water when a child asks for a drink. If they are started off with this when they are young, even in childcare situations they will be in the habit of drinking water.
There are a variety of natural flavorings on the market now that can add flavor to plain water. If your child doesn’t like water because they want flavor, add a couple drops of flavoring to make it more appealing. If you buy flavored water, check to make sure it is flavored naturally and has no added sugar, or it will simply cause the child to be thirstier. As an alternative, you can freeze water-rich fruit in an ice tray and put a couple cubes in a glass of water to help add flavor.
Make it a Challenge
Most kids love sticker charts, especially when young. Make a chart and provide a sticker each time a glass of water is consumed. At the end of the week, provide a special treat if your child has filled up the sticker chart. You might find your child actually becoming excited over the prospect of drinking a glass of water whether they are thirsty or not.
Dorothy Hastings is the Director of First School, which are three preschool and Child Day Care centers located throughout Southern California. First School provides a hands-on approach to preschool education and child care programs that emphasizes all around child development. In addition to their intuitive academic approach, First School also focuses on developing a child’s social skills and self-confidence, which is made possible in their intimate learning atmosphere.