Brains need fluids and when kids start school, it is especially important that kids are getting enough to drink to keep the brain (which is made up of 75% water) and body hydrated. Think of a sponge, when it is hydrated it is bouncy and squishy and when it is dry, it is hard. When the brain is dehydrated, it is hard for the dendrites to make connections and in turn, thinking gets slower and more labored. When it is hydrated, connections just flow. At school students may get milk and 100% juice in the AM then milk at lunch and drinks of water from a fountain or water bottle in between. When students are at home, they may say I am thirsty but they may not be getting something that will hydrate their body and help their brain make connections and sometimes at school they may not be getting enough drinks throughout the day to keep them hydrated as they play and work.
Along with their brain, children need water and healthy fluids to keep the immune system flushing bad germs out, help with digestion and keeps muscles fluid.
First, talking with children about how important it is to get enough water in their body throughout the day is a good step to getting them to understand the benefit to their body. Adults need atleast 8 glasses (2 liters) a day and the recommendation for kids is between 5-6 glasses ( 1 liter). On warm days and before and after physical activity it is really important for kids to get fluids in.
Second, parents need to help their children reduce the intake of fluids that do not help with hydration and can have quite the opposite effect on the body. This is actually the hardest part because if a child is used to having juice or other drinks, it will be hard to get them to drink water yet when children start with just water it is easier for them to continue even when they become aware of the other options. It seems obvious that pop, kool-aid and even some that are labeled as a fruit juice have dehydrating sodium and unnecessary preservatives as well as empty calories. Yet it can also be very difficult to know what the best juices are as labels can be misleading which is why drinking water is the best option because it is the best known hydrator.
Some families may do an easy experiment to show the importance of staying hydrated by not watering a plant and watching the effects of no water and how it is similar to our bodies. Some families create a chart to mark off how many times they drink water and other fluids as a way to increase the times they have water. When parents can reduce the intake of other fluids by not having them readily available then naturally children begin to increase drinking water.
By Tiffany Madsen