Welcome to summer! This weekend was a scorcher, and my children, I’m guessing like most of yours, were outdoors for three straight days.
Given the recent heat wave, it seemed like an appropriate time to talk kids’ hydration. Have you ever noticed that your kids seem to be able to go for hours and hours in the hot sun without asking for a drink? There are a couple of reasons for this: First of all, they are easily distracted and often just forget to hydrate, but second, they also often lack the more sensitive “thirst sensor” that adults have developed.
Getting enough fluids is key to our children staying cool & healthy, especially in the summer months. When kids don’t drink enough, their energy levels, & ability to focus can be affected. They risk becoming dehydrated, a condition that can range from mild symptoms to serious illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Children are often at a greater risk of becoming dehydrated because they’re less effective at perspiring and their bodies can produce more heat during exercise. Combined with their tendency to be easily distracted and forget to drink, it’s really important for parents to instill good habits and help them stay hydrated.
How do you encourage your kids to drink more even when they’re not thirsty? Teach them to check their pee! (Given most kids’ obsession with bodily fluids, this lesson is usually an easy sell :)) Your child’s urine should be a pale yellow, so let them know that if it’s dark or strong-smelling, they need to start drinking more water.
Here are a few tips to keep your kids cool and hydrated:
- Teach your child to drink before she feels thirsty. Once they are thirsty they are already dehydrated. They won’t know this unless you teach them.
- Get kids in the habit of drinking water by carrying it with you (or them) at all times and always having it accessible at home. Make it a rule that at least one glass of water gets drunk with every snack and meal.
- Restrict caffeinated and sugary beverages (e.g., pop, iced tea, sports drinks, etc.). Caffeine is a diuretic which leads to water loss and kids just don’t need the sugar that’s in most fruit drinks, pops, and sports drinks.
- Get “fizzy” with it! For kids who don’t like plain water, get creative. Use a soda maker to make bubbly water and flavour it with a shot of real fruit juice. Make your own herbal iced tea by steeping a pot of hot tea and then pouring it over a mountain of ice cubes in a glass. For those of you who haven’t discovered “Forever Nuts” or “Jolly Jellybean” at David’s Tea, give them a try, they are delicious, caffeine-free and kids love them iced!
- Remember that hydration is also supported by high-water content foods, so encourage your kids to eat water-rich fruits like watermelon and grapes and make homemade healthy popsicles available as snacks.
- If your child is attending a camp or day program this summer, don’t be shy about inquiring as to the program’s hydration policy. Send your child off to camp each day with plenty of fluids and ask your child if he or she is being given the opportunity to drink during the day. If the bottles you send are coming home full, ask the staff if they could please remind your child to drink during the day.
- Caregivers, coaches and parents should remind kids to drink prior to and during prolonged physical activity. A water bottle is a part of their essential sports safety gear, and kids should know this is non-negotiable!
- Be a well-hydrated role model. Drink lots of water!