February is National Children’s Dental Health Month
Twenty percent of kids in the U.S. don’t drink water in a given day. That miraculous, life-giving hydration doesn’t make the cut — at least by itself. That same 20 percent of kids consume twice as many calories from sugar-sweetened beverages than children who drink water every day, according to a study conducted by the Water, Health and Nutrition Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University.
But water is the cornerstone for all body functions. Clean water is the best beverage choice for kids (milk is a healthy runner-up). It’s the most abundant substance in the body, averaging 60 percent of body weight. It helps keep body temperature constant at about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and it transports nutrients and oxygen to all cells and carries waste products away. Water helps maintain blood volume, and it helps lubricate joints and body tissues such as those in the mouth, eyes, and nose.
How Much Water Do Children Need?
Children generally need the same amount of water as adults: one quart for every 1,000 calories they expend. The exception is infants, who should only be drinking breastmilk or formula until around six months, when they can be introduced to water. Then they only need about four to eight ounces per day until they are a year old, because the rest of their liquids are coming from breastmilk or formula.
Infants (0–6 months) — breastmilk or formula only
Babies (6–12 months) — 4–8 ounces per day
Toddlers (1–3 years) — 4 cups per day, including milk
Children (4–8 years) — 5 cups per day, including milk
Big kids (9+) — 7–8 cups per day, including milk
It should be noted that these amounts vary by individual, levels of activity, and environmental conditions like heat and humidity. But don’t worry about keeping track — let your child’s thirst be your guide.
Choose Water First for Quenching Thirst
Children know what they are taught, and you can teach yours to favor water by choosing water for yourself. Avoid overstimulation of taste buds by limiting sweet food and drinks. Make water a part of everyone’s daily routine and the drink of choice — particularly between meals. Before thirsty kids drain their dinner cups of alternative beverages (milk, juice, etc), have them drink a cup of water first.
Here are a few twists to add something special to your family’s water intake:
- Infuse water with lemons, berries, cucumber, or mint for some added flavor. This is an easy way to keep the whole family coming back for refills.
- Keep fruits and vegetables that are high in water content handy. Some of the best vegetables to choose from are cucumber, zucchini, iceberg lettuce, celery, and tomato. Top fruits include watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries, and grapefruit. They provide nutrition and hydration!
- Freeze fruit inside ice cubes. It dresses up the drinks at the table when you’re feeling fancy, and children can help fill the trays.
- Just like getting new shoes can inspire you to start getting those workouts in (that does work, right?), unique water bottles or cups can help make water a habit.
Don’t Forget About Fluoride
For structurally stronger, more decay-resistant teeth, children need fluoride. Generally, your tap water is adequately fluoridated if it comes from a public water supply.
But if your water comes from a well, if you drink bottled water that’s not fluoridated, or if you have a water filter on your kitchen faucet (some water filters remove heavy metals and fluoride), let us know during your next visit. We can provide recommendations or alternatives if your water is lacking in fluoride.