Getting children to love drinking water isn’t something that comes naturally for most kids these days.
So many drink choices are colorful and flavorful, that water is typically viewed as the boring cousin to all of the other liquids.
With all the competition out there for which beverage to choose, we have to be intentional about teaching our children what is good for their bodies and what isn’t.
For most children though, telling them that something is good for them isn’t enough to get them excited about it… just ask a bunch of kids how much they love broccoli!
So can do we do? We have to show them that it tastes good!
As soon as my girls were old enough to drink water, I decided that I was going to be intentional about teaching them to enjoy it.
In this post, I’m going to show you the 9 steps I took to teach my girls to guzzle their water!
Side Note: Talk to your Pediatrician before beginning a baby on water. Young babies only need breast milk and/or formula for their liquids. Your Pediatrician will tell you when to start giving them water.
How Much Water Should Kids Drink?
First things first, how much water should our kids be drinking?
The short answer is: it depends on the source you want to use.
One day, my oldest daughter was recovering from being sick and I wanted to make sure she was drinking enough water as she was recovering.
I decided to google “How much water does a three-year-old need in a day” thinking we would be well above the average.
I don’t know about your kids, but my daughter is a lightweight and that was almost twice her body weight in ounces!
I had thought I was doing well because my girls love water. They REALLY love their water. The first thing my younger daughter says when we walk downstairs is “A WA WA!, A WA WA!!” until we get her cup for her.
As I continued to search, I found that there seemed to be no real consensus on the amount of water that children need.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Guide was vague and confusing since they give a range of 8-40 ounces a day for children that are one to five years old.
CHOC Children’s Hospital has a simple and more realistic recommendation of one 8 ounce glass of water per year. (If the child is three years old, they should have 24 ounces of water each day.)
This is much easier to accomplish and track. Although I do think that the size of the child should play into the recommendation.
For my daughter, if we had followed the CHOC Children’s Hospital recommendation when she was three and now four, she would have been drinking her body weight in ounces each day.
Finally, I realized that I’d never seen a toddler drink 44 ounces of any kind of fluid, much less water, in one day.
So, although I am a huge fan of following the current health knowledge, I decided to nurture their love for drinking water and not stress out about trying to reconcile all this conflicting information.
I now aim for the adult recommendation for drinking water, which is half your body weight in ounces of water. Meaning if you weigh 100 lbs, you should drink 50 ounces of water each day.
This seems to yield a healthy amount of bathroom trips in a day while not feeling like all we do is drink water.
(When I tried to get to drink more water, it felt like all they did was drink water and run to the bathroom.)
Ultimately, you should talk to your pediatrician to get their recommendation for how much water your child should drink.
How to Get Your Kids to Drink More Water
1) Start Them Young
As soon as my pediatrician gave me the green light, I grabbed some sippy cups and started offering them tastes whenever I would drink water.
Be sure to consult your pediatrician for their recommendations. But with my girls, they said it was ok to start giving them some tastes of water when they were six months old to get them used to the flavor.
They told me not to fill their bottles full of water at this point though because they still needed to get their calories from breast milk and/or formula.
You just want them to get small tastes at first.
2) Let Them Drink From Everything
If my six-month-old was interested in the water I was drinking and trying to grab my cup and bring it to her mouth, I would let them try a sip.
I didn’t rush to grab their sippy cup or make sure that this would be a spill-free experience.
I would give them a sip straight from my glass. Usually, a sip was all they wanted and would cough and sputter even with that.
Children love doing what their parents are doing, even if it is just drinking water the way that mommy and daddy are drinking it.
Any time they tasted the water or took a drink I would say “Water” or “Yummy!” or “Good Job Trying”
Another benefit of doing this was that I could stop taking sippy cups everywhere I went sooner. The girls were used to drinking from my cups anyway and soon learned to do it without a mess when we were out and about.
3) Don’t Get Spill-Proof Cups
Spill-proof cups sound nice in theory. I was often interested in the spill-proof cups my friends would show me that their kids were using. These miracle cups never left a drop of water on a couch cushion or the floor!
My excitement was usually short-lived though as I saw the parent trying to get the child to drink. They were usually greeted with a firm “no!” from the child.
After looking at the cups myself I realized they either required quite a bit of suction or some coordination with a bite-suck combination that my babies weren’t ready for yet.
The cups I got for my girls were not spill-proof by any means, they will leak if you leave them sideways on the floor or furniture. BUT they make it easy for the baby to get the water into their mouth.
I wanted the positive reinforcement to be gained as easily as possible. If they had to struggle to get the water out, they usually lost interest quickly and didn’t keep trying.
Remember, babies don’t know that they want or need water, or even that there is water in the cup.
They need us to teach them!
Here are the cups we have loved using for our girls:
This works well if your child likes chewing on things. The bite valve opens easily when they gnaw on it and they will start figuring out how to get water out pretty quickly.
This cup was very easy to use and the wide base makes it easy for the child to sit it upright when they are finished. This is a great choice for a child who doesn’t bite or suck from a straw.
This has been the clear favorite sippy cup in our house. As soon as they figure out how to drink from a straw, they prefer this cup.
Not only do they prefer drinking from this cup, but they will also drink a much larger volume of water than they will from any other cup.
I don’t know if it’s just fun to drink out of, or if kids just naturally drink more out of a straw when they reach that milestone, but this cup has been a winner for us.
My oldest daughter received this water bottle for Christmas when she was three and it has been her favorite “big kid” water bottle.
It does completely seal IF it is completely latched closed (that’s a big IF around these parts). But it is easy for a three-year-old to open and use by themselves.
4) Have Them Drink When You Drink
Kids love to parrot those around them. Every time I feel thirsty, I have everyone take a water break.
This also got them used to drinking water throughout the day instead of just at mealtimes.
5) Have Frequent Water Breaks
We made it a habit (possibly because I am a chronic water drinker) that we all take periodic water breaks.
Anyone can announce a water break, and the only rule is that everyone has to take at least one sip.
This is also a great way to keep track of the water bottles. When you use them frequently, it is harder to lose them!
6) Only Give Them Water
When people drink sweetened or artificial beverages, it reduces their desire for water. Compared to the artificial colors and flavors, water is bland and boring.
However, if their taste buds are used to the flavor of water, they will learn to love it.
After my girls were one year old and weaned, they only drank water.
(Before the age of one, we would give them almond milk at the table with meals once we started dropping their breast milk/formula feedings during weaning.)
They never think to ask for anything else because we don’t buy any other beverages. Almond milk is now only used for cooking or cold cereal.
There are 2 exceptions to this rule:
One is when we go to a local fresh-pressed juice bar. Where they are more than happy to try a beet-carrot-grapefruit juice because they aren’t used to drinking artificially sweetened drinks. The juice bar is such a rare treat that my oldest daughter requests to go for her birthday.
The other exception is when we are sick. When the kids are sick, we will get coconut water to drink because of the electrolytes.
7) Have Them Drink When They Pee
Every time my girls go potty, I have them take a drink.
Since we did early potty training, this got their bodies on a predictable schedule for using the restroom and we had a lot fewer accidents when we started doing this.
You don’t have to potty train early for this to work though, just make it a rule that after we get off the potty, we take a drink.
When we feel thirsty, our body is already dehydrated. Taking a drink every they go to the bathroom keeps them hydrating.
Our girls still drink whenever they feel like it in between bathroom trips, but they didn’t need to drink as much in between when they are drinking right after they went potty.
Drinking water became integrated into our day with this strategy.
Until my oldest daughter was almost three years old, she would ask for water after getting off the potty if I forgot to offer it.
8) Infuse the Water
Infusing the water with fruit is a great way to get kids to drink more water. If they will take one sip for you, they usually want to keep drinking after they taste the fruit.
Both of my girls have loved adding lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, or mint to their water. Let them pick their own flavors if they are hesitant to try!
Especially if your children don’t have a lot of sugar in their diets, this will be a treat. I usually stick with citrus and/or herbs because I want them to appreciate the added flavor without being taught that water should be sweet.
9) Get Them Their Own Water Bottle
My girls love having their own water bottles. They are more inclined to drink without me asking them to if their water bottles are accessible as they are playing.
It also makes it easier to see how much water everyone has been drinking through the day if they each have their own container.
Choosing a Sippy Cup or Water Bottle can be a bit of a challenge with so many options out there, so I’ve compiled a list of 6 things to look for when choosing, and included my recommendations for different stages:
How to Choose a Water Cup for Your Child:
1) Choose a cup that your child can hold and drink from by themselves.
It can be tempting to try to help them drink every time, but your baby or toddler will enjoy drinking water more if they can play with the cup and use it by themselves.
2) Don’t get a spill-proof cup
While spill-proof cups sound nice, they usually have a learning curve that is often longer than the child’s attention span.
The child will often give up on it before they realize that water can come out of the cup.
3) Make sure the cup is easy to drink from. This will be different for each child.
If your child naturally bites the drinking area, grab one of these Munchkin Sippy Cups.
The Munchkin cups worked really well for my oldest daughter because she naturally gnawed on things. My younger daughter was a thumb-sucker, so she more naturally sucked on things that were in her mouth.
If your child is more inclined to suck on things than bite them, try a Nuk if they aren’t sucking from a straw yet.
Once the girls started using straws, they loved using their Lollacup. I found that once they could suck from a straw they would drink more with a straw than they would with a sippy cup.
The Nalgene Kids OTF is fantastic for little kids. It’s a great size for them to be able to carry around in a backpack or in their hands. And they can easily handle drinking out of it by themselves.
It also is leakproof when the lid is completely closed, but it will probably take a couple of tries for the child to be able to close it by themselves.
The drinking area is larger so I wouldn’t recommend the water bottle for toddlers unless they will have a lot of help.
4) Have a way to close the cup.
While none of our cups are leak-proof (except for the Nalgene that she currently uses) They do all have a way to slow the flow of water if they happen to get left on their side… which only happens all. the. time.
This will give you a couple of minutes to right the cup before you have a puddle.
5) Be sure the cup is easy to open by the child if it is closed.
Sometimes the cups designed for kids are really hard to open. If they can’t open the cup, you will be needing to help with this process many times a day (or they will just give up and not drink enough water if you happen to be in a different room).
I wanted my girls to have some independence with their water drinking.
6) Look for a clear or opaque design on the outside.
I like having clear water bottles for the girls for two reasons: First, I can easily see if it needs to be refilled. Especially with more than one child, it can be easy to see a sippy cup sitting around and assume that there is water in it. I have made that mistake multiple times.
When the cup is clear, it is easy to see if it is empty.
The other reason is that I can see if they are getting water when they tip it back. If you are trying to help them drink from a metal water bottle, for example, it is easy to douse them in water since you can’t see when the water is reaching their mouth.
With the clear water bottles, I don’t have this problem… unless I’m distracted with something else as I’m trying to help them.
You May Also Enjoy…
These parenting posts: How to Get Out the Door On Time When You Have Little Kids, 9 Practical Ways to Teach Your Children Self Control, A Beginner’s Guide to Toddler Chores, Why Every Parent Should Read Bringing up Bébé: 10 Lessons I Learned From the French.
Want some fun kid posts? Check out How to Hike With a Toddler: 15 Tips for Teaching Your Toddler to Love Hiking, Our 10 Favorite Toddler Books That Parents Will Enjoy Too, 10 Reasons to Make Bread With Your Kiddos, The Best Intentional Gift Ideas for Children.
Ready to Get 7 Extra Hours in Your Week?
Then check out Simply Streamlined!
In Simply Streamlined, you will learn how to
- Declutter Your Home
- Put Effective Routines in Place
- Create a Set-It-and-Forget-It Meal Plan
- Get Your Finances Under Control
Simply Streamlined walks you through exactly how to Completely Streamline Your Home in just 15 Minutes a Day!
Plus you will receive
- Cluttered to Calm Lessons, Workbooks, and Spreadsheets
- Put Your Home on Autopilot Lessons, Workbooks, and Spreadsheets
- Set-It-and-Forget-It Lessons, Workbooks, and Spreadsheets
- Master Your Money Lessons, Workbooks, and Spreadsheets
- AND Weekly Live Coaching Calls!
I hope to see you inside the program!
(Or if you are more of a do-it-yourself kind of gal, you can check out my DIY Streamlining Resources!)