Encouraging kids to drink water

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Written by Kara Fleck, Simple Kids editor and Rockin’ Granola mama.

If you were to take a peek into the refrigerator at our house you would find veggies, butter, yogurt, and the gallon of milk or two (or three) that you would expect a family of six to have.

However, you might be surprised by what is missing:  the arsenal of juice boxes, drink pouches, and soda cans standard in the typical family diet – but we don”t actually miss those things at all.

What quenches our thirst?  Water.  Cool, refreshing water.

At our house my kids know that their beverage choices are milk, water, and our daily smoothie.  We limit juice, avoid soda, and focus on drinking water.

It wasn”t always this way, and if I”m being honest,  I need to admit that some of my kids (those who have been drinking water from the time they were toddlers) don”t need very much encouragement to drink water.  Drinking water is already a life-long habit for my younger kids.

But, some of them do need a little extra incentive to hydrate with water from time to time.  This was especially true when we first began to focus on developing this good habit together as a family.  For my oldest, it isn”t quite as easy.

Moms and Dads, are you having a hard time convincing your kids to drink water?

I understand, I”ve been in your shoes, and I have a few suggestions that might help.

Encouraging kids to drink water

Especially if drinking water is a new change for your household, try to create an open dialogue with your kids about why you are making this change as a family. Explaining why drinking water is an important part of healthy living can help your kids to understand and embrace this change, too. There is no need to get overly technical, but in an age appropriate way, simply explain how water is so good for our bodies and why it is a healthy choice to make every day.

You might try …

… Taking a trip to the library and checking out some books about how the human body works and why water is an important part of good nutrition.

… Talking about how much water our bodies need for us to drink every day and discuss how much a child their age needs to drink.

… Using visual aids to explain why water is a healthier choice than soda or sugary juice drinks.  There are some resources at Soda Free Summer that show just how much sugar is in soda and juice.

Try to find a motivation that resonates with them – i.e. a preschooler who avoids sugary drinks so that the Tooth Fairy will be pleased with her pearly while teeth, or my son who likes “grow stronger” foods and drinks.  Perhaps you have a child who is interested in sports and would be motivated to know how water keeps them hydrated to be more active, etc.

Tap into what speaks to your child and emphasize that.

Set your kids up for success

One of the keys to success, for parents and for kids, is to prepare for it.  Set your kids up for successful water drinking by creating a water-friendly environment.

  • Remove the soda, juice, or other non-healthy options that might be tempting (to them and to you).
  • Take a few moments and get into the habit of filling up water bottles the evening before so they are ready to go the next morning.
  • A friendly note on the fridge might serve as a helpful visual reminder to your kids to drink their water.
  • Spoken reminders work as well, but be careful not to nag.
  • I love thisthat Mariah set up at Playful Learning.
  • Keep it accessible:  playing outside?  Set up a water station outdoors.  Spending time indoors?  Set up a water station on the kitchen counter or table.  Keep the water bottles filled and within easy reach in the fridge.  Serving a snack?  Give them water to drink with it. Make it easy for them to choose to take a drink of water.

Do you have more than one child? I have found it helpful to color code water bottles so that I can see at a glance who is drinking their water and who might need a bit more encouragement or gentle reminding.

Practical tips

Keep the focus positive:  we get to hydrate our bodies with fresh water every day (not the negative:  we can”t have soda or sugary juice boxes)  Keep the emphasis on what they are getting, not what they might be missing.

Be an example for your kids:  if they see you drinking water, chances are they will follow suit.  I don”t know about your house, but at my house the surest way to get a child interested in eating or drinking something is if they think it is a treat mom or dad are enjoying.

Limit their choices.  In our house the choices are milk or water.  That is it.  This makes meal times simpler, makes travel simpler, and reduces the begging for other options.  Does my fifth grader still occasionally wistfully announce that she”s going to have root beer in her fridge all the time when she”s a grown up?  Well, yes.  But, for now, we are her parents and we make the rules.

Taste your water.  How does it taste?  Could you benefit from a water filter? Filtered water might improve the taste and hold greater appeal to your child, and to the grown ups alike.

Travel with water

  • Take water with you.  It is cheaper, more practical, greener than purchasing bottled water on the run and it will help you avoid the drive-thru soda trap.
  • Use a cooler or insulated cozy for your water bottle to help keep it cool. Feeling crafty? There are a few patterns to make your own here, here, and here.
  • Freeze your child”s water if they are packing it in a lunch box so that it is thawed to a delicious drinking temperature by the time they are ready to enjoy it.

Make it fun!

  • Let them personalize their cups or color code their bottles.
  • If you have a child whose personality responds well to goal setting and visual incentives, keep a chart on the fridge so that they can track their water consumption.
  • Don”t underestimate the power of bendy straws, paper umbrellas, and ice cubes in fun shapes.

As with most things, encouraging kids to drink water is a change that has the best chance of success if the parents lead the way.  Whether you choose to slowly wean your family off of sugary drinks or you go “cold-turkey” I think you will agree with me that avoiding soda and juice and  drinking water will have you and your kids feeling better, healthier, and happier.

Do your kids drink water? Or do they need a little encouragement? How do you encourage drinking water in your home?

“Brought to you by the Brita Bottle For Kids. Learn more.



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About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at KElizabethFleck.com.

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Comments

  1. Water is definitely important. We have never had juice in the house for the kids until recently when I started buying orange juice, but that was mainly for cranberry bread I was making several months ago :-) Their drink of choice (mainly their only choice) is water. They each have a klean kanteen that they use, they started out with the sippy attachments and moved up to the sports caps eventually. Great tips!
    Heather´s latest post: unclogging your sink naturally

  2. Our kiddo knows her choices are water or milk (with the very occasional orange juice for a special treat) so she doesn’t really give us any trouble about it.
    Steph´s latest post: Some Date Night Strategies for Our Not-So-Perfect Lives

    • Wonderful! I wish we had started out as a family this way so that it was easy with all of our kids.

      My oldest has a hard time with it, as I mentioned in the post. And, I’ll admit that sometimes I feel badly when we have the discussion about why I’m not serving juice boxes to the neighborhood kids who come to play in the backyard or why we can’t just stop and get sodas on the way to the park.

      But, know better, do better :-)

      What a gift you’re giving your child by instilling this habit from the beginning!
      Kara @SimpleKids.net´s latest post: Encouraging kids to drink water

  3. We have always only had water and milk in the house and therefore have never had any trouble. Our kids love water and only ever have juice when we are at someone’s home. They have never tasted soda (my oldest is 4 1/2). I feel that making water THE drink at home helps tremendously. It also helps that mom dad only drink water too!
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau´s latest post: Establish Home Routines that Make Life Simpler

  4. Martin Jones says:

    As a kid we always had soda in our house, but when I went off to college I decided I wasn’t going to buy any, I made it a treat for when I went out for dinner or to the movies. Whenever I went home though I’d slip into the habit of just grabbing a can from the fridge – until my mom started putting bottles of water in there too. I think the ease of just grabbing something quickly is what made me go for the soda cans, but now I definitely choose water instead.

    Martin,
    kids island

  5. Our house is a water/milk zone too. I do buy juice boxes occasionally, but my 4 year old doesn’t get them out unless I ask her if she’d like one – which is usually about once a week. Sometimes I’ll throw one in her lunch bag for a treat. She does like juice and very rarely gets soda (from Grandma), but milk and water are her usual choices.
    Besides the health benefits of water, I just can’t stand to fork over the money for soda or juice very often!

  6. Kara, I love this article. I especially like that you emphasize talking to your children and learning about the benefits. With my children I’ve found that they do respond to the reason why! You sometimes have to repeat yourself but it sinks in eventually.

    A few other tips: When my kids were small I used a camelback when we went to the playground. It allowed me to have my hands free and I didn’t have to worry about forgetting a water bottle or it getting knocked over. They needed a sip and I unhooked the drink tube for them.

    If your kids are having a tough time transitioning from juice, use some of the fruity teas (Celestial Seasons has some great flavors) and steep up some raspberry zinger iced tea. It doesn’t have the sugar but it has a nice fruity flavor.

    I’ve included some other tips for getting more water in you right here:

    http://fitfamilytogether.com/healthy-home-biz/how-to-drink-more-water-4-ways

    So glad you brought up this important – and ever so simple – way to better health!
    Sarah @ Fit Family Together´s latest post: Why You Don’t Need Will Power To Get To Your Goals

  7. We have had issues with cavities and bad teeth with our kids from a very early age at our house due to some genetic things, but that meant NO juice or sugary drinks at all and milk only at meals. What helped our kids drink more water was a new water bottle – we invested in the Thermos foogo and funtainer insulated bottles with straws and they love them! Plus it is nice to throw a few ice cubes in their water in the morning and have it still be cold later in the day. On hot hot days that we have to run errands in the car, they help me put a few extra ice cubes in there and then when they climb in the hot car they at least have a cold drink of water waiting for them.

  8. My son has been drinking water since he was tiny. He either has water or milk, juice on special occasions/for a treat.

    We were actually told when he was younger, by his pedi (who we no longer see) that we shouldn’t let him drink water. She insisted he should drink juice instead. I thought that was a strange thing for a doctor to tell us.
    Satakieli´s latest post: Art Galleries

  9. We also mainly drink water, we have diluted orange juice for breakfast. But other than that it is water. My oldest wouldn’t drink at her toddler group to start with because they drank squash and she just didn’t like it. I figure if water is what they mainly drink if they get other things at thier relatives or other places it is a treat and far less damaging than if they get it all the time.

  10. 1. We have never been a juice drinking family. My son gets some at school but I made it clear to all care providers and him juice is a treat not everyday and if he has one small glass that is all for the day.
    2. We limit soda as well though I have found even if I let him have one he NEVER drinks more then a few sips. Id rather he learn self-control then just betold no.
    3 do what works for us. I carry one container of water in the car at all times. Even if it getgs warm its there so I’m not going to stop and buy more. And if we are out I refill it when possible (lots of events here in UT have big water containers you can drink from for free) I got a boatload of aluminum water bottles. Filled em. Kept em in fridge and we hated them. Such a pain to carry – twist off lid etc. So he likes a plastic water bottle. I wash it and re-use but he USES it! And I got a big jug from walmart that fits in the top of our fridge, it has the same dispenser as the water station shown and I make sure he has at least one glass-cup-container he can fill himself. He drinks it all day long because he thinks its cool to fill up himself. It also encourages me to drink it as I find it more palatable ice cold. I refill it nightly. I also

  11. My daughter also prefers water over any other drink. She has never really had any other option though. Its always been water, milk or occasionally apple or orange juice. She is seven now and has started to ask for iced tea more and more often. We make herbal and green ice teas (without sugar) once a week in a big jar to keep in the fridge. She really likes a lot of the fruitier teas and they are healthy too!

    Soda is not allowed at all. My husband drinks a lot of soda and will give my daughter sips every once in a while, but she knows she cant have a glass of it and rarely asks. She knows all the reasons why soda is not healthy. Every time my hubbie has a toothache we all chime in that he should drink less soda!
    Melissa´s latest post: The Hen and the Rooster

  12. I think something else to add is that the amount of water each person needs on a daily basis differs from person-to-person. I found the info here {http://www.holistichomemaking.org/2012/03/hydration-how-much-water-should-i-drink.html} helped me know exactly how much my children, husband and I should be drinking each day.
    April Emery´s latest post: Almond Breeze Almond Milk Giveaway {3 Winners}

  13. My kids definitely need encouragement, so I got them some new Camelbak’s for their first day of school. We have kicked the juice habit this summer and that does help encourage more water drinking too.
    Paula´s latest post: How I Plan Homeschool

  14. We are primarily a water/milk house as well. We even have a water station on the dining room table. What I love about having limited options at home is that when we choose to treat the kids to a juice it really is a treat. I don’t feel guilty because I know it’s not an everyday thing… a lot like my dark hot chocolate at work. :)

  15. Becca Streit says:

    I get my daughter to drink water by giving her a krazy straw cup that’s purple. She loves it and she drinks about two of them a day. :) For her it’s all about the cup.

  16. My kids went through a phase when they were very young when they only wanted juice. We pushed water and drank it ourselves, and now, a few years later, they *prefer* water over juice or milk. They have kanteens that they can carry around everywhere (no where is off limits like other food and drink is) and they get a kick out of that. I drink gobs of water myself, so they see it’s normal as well. I’m lucky; our tap water here is delicious.

  17. My toddler has always had a choice between water and milk, but 9 times out of 10 she’ll choose milk. The easiest trick I’ve used to get her to drink more water is to squirt a couple drops of lime juice in it! It gives the water fruit juice appeal (which she’s been introduced to at Grandma’s and friends’ houses) without adding any sugar!
    Bethany´s latest post: Creative Day 164 – Tea Party Dress!

  18. My 3 year old granddaughter has never had fruit juice or cow’s milk, she drinks only water. Once in awhile, she gets a sip of her Daddy’s unsweetened herb tea. So far, so good. :-)

  19. Great encouragement. I always struggle with getting enough water and am always telling my kids to get another cupful. Love the fun suggestions. I always add some lemon or lime or even some fresh cut cucumber to my water. Love the frozen fruit in there, too!
    Kerry @ Made For Real´s latest post: I WON!

  20. Some lovely suggestions there, I will be sure to try a few of those with my children! My children have always grown up with drinking water, its best to get them into it from very young. I let them know that other drinks only come as treats, and only to have them occasionally.

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  1. [...] replacing juice boxes and sodas with water, milk or fruit smoothies. I tried several of these tips for getting your kids to drink more water, and I have been pleasantly surprised by how quickly I was able to eliminate [...]

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