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 this DIY Infused Water Station that 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.
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?