Children’s attitudes to water and top tips on keeping your child hydrated

As the beginning of September marks the time in which children head back to school, it’s perfect for parents to introduce their children to new habits. Water is essential for life [1] and is one of the healthiest ways to hydrate. However a survey carried out by the Natural Hydration Council [2] found one in ten 7-9 year olds believe that the body can survive without water.

Additional statistics included:

Only half (51%) of children questioned said they drank water at school
Four in ten (40%) have to be told to drink water by their parents
More than a third (35.1%) do not drink water when thirsty
More than 40% (42.4%) don’t drink water whilst playing sport or exercising

The Natural Hydration Council is encouraging parents to use the beginning of the new school year as a time to encourage their children to start new healthy habits, such as encouraging children to have a glass of water before they go to school.

Dr Emma Derbyshire, adviser to the Natural Hydration Council and an expert in children’s nutrition advises parents to encourage their children to drink water;

“Staying well hydrated is important for children as they are at a greater risk of dehydration than adults due to their higher surface-to-body weight ratio and smaller reserves of body fluids [3]. Research also suggests that adequate hydration helps children to maintain cognitive function and concentration at school [4].

“Helping children to develop healthy hydration habits from a young age is a positive step to avoiding issues such as tooth decay”.

“As a mum I know that telling kids ‘you’ll be healthier if you drink more water’ is unlikely to work, just like all adult finger-wagging. Instead, we should lead by example and drink water, as we know that children are influenced by adult behavior.”

Seven smart ways to encourage your child to develop the taste for water:

1.    Children often copy parents’ behaviour and habits, so try to get into the habit of drinking water, and showing them you like it, in front of your child(ren).

2.    Repeated tastings of water may help kids to develop a taste for it. Studies suggest that a dislike of a food or drink can be overcome by repeating tastings 5 to 10 times over a two week period, however, avoid using excessive coercion or pressure to get them to drink it [5].

3.    Start your day with a glass of water. Ensure the whole family drinks water at breakfast, so everyone starts the day well hydrated.

4.    Always offer water at mealtimes –it will also help those vegetables taste less bitter if children are drinking something plain.

5.    Ask your children to decorate their own water bottle.

6.    Start a ‘water chart’ and see which member of the family drinks the most.

7.    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.

References

[1] Popkin B, D’Anci K, and Rosenberg I (2010) Water, Hydration and Health. Nutrition Review 68(8): 439–458

[2] Survey of 500 children aged 7 – 9 years old, conducted for the Natural Hydration Council, by Opinion Matters in July 2014

[3] D’Anci KE et al. (2006) Hydration and cognitive function in children. Nutrition Reviews 64(10 Pt 1), 457-64.

[4] Derbyshire EJ (2012) An intervention to improve cognition and hydration in UK school children using bottled water. Complete Nutrition 12(2), 18-20.

[5] Cooke, LJ, Chambers, LC, Anez, EV, Wardle, J. (2011) Facilitating or undermining? The effect of reward on food acceptance: a narrative review. Appetite, Oct;57(2):493-7.

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