One of the concerns that I’ve frequently heard from parents when I was a preschool teacher would be, “Did my child drink enough water?” Drinking enough water is perhaps the simplest (and yet often frequently neglected) way of taking care of your body. We need water to help us absorb nutrients and transport them to our cells, remove and excrete waste products, lubricate our joints and regulate our body temperature (Health Promotion Board). Yet, a lot of us don’t take in enough water, or only do so when we are thirsty – by which time, we are already in the beginning stages of dehydration. Use these tips to help your children develop good water-intake habits from young.
1. Drink 6-8 glasses (1.5 – 2 litres) of WATER a day
Our bodies do absorb liquid from fruit juice, soups, canned drinks etc. but the clear H20 stuff is best – it is calorie free and sodium free. Diluting juices can help to increase their water intake. In addition, children should be drinking milky drinks and juices instead of tea and coffee, but if they do consume some, note that it has a diuretic effect if taken in excess, and may make them urinate more often. Nonetheless, moderation is the key. Excessive consumption of water can be harmful to the body
2. Twist of lemon can do the trick
The glass jars of ice-cold water at cafes often taste so good because of a simple twist of lemon. If your child doesn’t like the taste of plain water, try this tip, or add a tiny spoonful of honey.
3. Pack a tumbler or waterbottle for outings
In our hot and humid climate, our bodies use up a significant amount of water to keep us cool (e.g. by sweating). Hence, make it a habit to bring a waterbottle for every child and adult, even for short trips. Waterbottles come in all shapes and sizes nowadays – it should not be difficult to find one that your child will like.
Note: Some researchers have found that drinking from polycarbonate bottles (the hard, plastic reusable bottle often used for water containers and milk bottles) can lead to higher levels of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in their urine, which had been linked to adverse health effects. You may wish to bear this in mind when choosing a suitable waterbottle, or choose bottles indicated as BPA-free.
4. Take frequent sips, not infrequent gulps
This is where packing a waterbottle comes in handy – you can take a sip anytime. If your child has to be reminded to drink e.g. when out on a long walk, make it fun – one parent puts cartoon stickers at the volume marks at the side of her child’s water bottle and gets the kid to ‘drink down’ to each cartoon character every half hour (about 50 ml) when they are out for a few hours.
5. Encourage good toilet habits
What goes in must come out! Encourage your child to go to the toilet at regular intervals instead of waiting only till the ‘urge’ is there, or worse still, when the urge is ‘strong’. Flushing out the system regularly will make it easier for your child to want to drink more.
6. Watch the outflow colour
A good indication of whether your child is drinking enough is the colour of urine. Pale, clear and odorless is good, dark, cloudy and smelly is not. However, note that eating certain vitamin supplements (e.g. multivitamins, vitamin B complex and vitamin B2/ riboflavin) can darken urine as well.
7. Don’t wait till thirst strikes
If your child drinks only when thirsty, your child is already 2% dehydrated, and may experience other undesirable side effects. Water should be drunk before, during and after any physical activity (which include running around the playground or active indoor games), and during meals, even if such meals contain other fluids such as soup.
8. Tiredness or dehydration? Know the symptoms
Signs of dehydration include tiredness, sluggishness, headaches, irritability and inability to concentrate. You may have felt some of these symptoms yourself when working hard at a stretch without consuming any water or fluids. In class, it may be difficult for the teacher to spot such signs, but if not addressed, your child will feel worse by the time he or she gets home from school. Mental performance that requires memory, attention and concentration will be affected for a dehydrated child– hence doing homework and studying will be even harder! Other causes notwithstanding, regular intake of water is often all that is needed to prevent these symptoms from cropping up.