As you might guess, at Small & Wild we’ve a keen interest in keeping our kids healthily hydrated. We wanted to share some of our thoughts on the importance of hydration plus a few of our favourite healthy drink options for your little people.
How much should children drink?
Children need between 1 and 2 litres of fluid a day (depending on their age and activity level) to keep their bodies functioning optimally. However, according to the National Diet and Nutrition survey, children between 4 & 10 years are drinking an average of 280ml a day – just one quarter of the recommended intake.
The NHS states that:
1-3 year olds should drink 1 litre of fluid a day
4-8 year olds should drink 1.2 litres of fluid a day
and those older than 9 years should aim for at least 1.5 litres (2 litres by the time they hit 12)
For your toddler, that is the equivalent of 6-8 150ml drinks per day. For an older child, who might be able to consume more in one go, it is the equivalent of 6-8 250ml servings.
On hot days, or if your child is particularly active, they may need to drink even more.
That’s a lot of water!
Why is hydration for kids important?
The composition of children’s bodies means that they have a higher proportion of body water than we do as adults and as a result need to drink proportionately more fluid than an adult might.
When children become even mildly dehydrated, it can negatively impact their focus and concentration levels, cause headaches and make them (even more!) irritable.
Unfortunately, hydration isn’t as intuitive as it should be. Children in particular can be late to recognise the signs that they are thirsty, which is why establishing a good and regular hydration routine at home is really important.
Kids will mirror what we do as grown-ups – so if parents and carers can demonstrate good healthful drinking habits then hopefully they will emulate. Offering a drink with each meal or snack (and then one more for luck!) throughout the day is usually a pretty good way of ensuring we give our children the opportunity to consume enough fluids.
Keeping well hydrated helps our bodies to stay healthy by allowing our organs to perform their functions properly. Good hydration can boost energy levels, help stabilise body temperature and aid concentration – all good reasons to keep our little people as well-watered as possible!
What should our children drink?
Many drink options on the market that appeal to children - from juice to fizzy drinks and squash - contain sugar or sweeteners. On average, children in the UK consume over double the recommended daily allowance of sugar, with about one third of that coming from soft drinks. This excessive sugar consumption can lead to obesity, tooth decay and other health issues - indeed currently 1 in 3 children are overweight by the time they start secondary school. If we can help our kids to make good drinks choices then we will help to keep them healthy and well.
Last month, Public Health England, released their third annual report on industry action to reduce sugar levels in products that contribute most to kids’ sugar consumption. The report has some extremely positive findings including citing a 44% drop in the sugar content of drinks subject to the Soft Drinks Industry Levy. Many other drinks manufacturers have also responded to the challenge to cut sugar in their products and have achieved a reduction of 10-22%.
So, things are looking up. Despite that, it is important to remember that even one small carton of no added sugar juice can contain around 2-4 teaspoons of sugar. Public Health England suggests limiting these types of drinks to just 150ml per day or, in the case of younger children, cutting them out altogether.
Our top 6 healthy drink choices
It goes without saying that water is a brilliant option. Not only is it free but it hydrates us without filling us with calories, sugar or additives. We offer it to our little people as much as possible throughout the day and now that they are taking water bottles to school, we love being able to see how much they have drunk during the course of the day.
Milk is packed with nutrients including calcium, potassium and B vitamins. It’s also a source of protein. Nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed suggests 350-400mls a day is about right (unless your child is consuming a lot of other dairy products). There are also so many great milk alternatives out there now – just make sure you opt for unsweetened and do your research to check it meets the nutritional requirements for your little people.
3. COCONUT WATER
Coconut water isn’t a drink that always jumps to mind readily but it’s known for its super hydrating powers. Whilst it is low in calories and naturally fat free, it also boasts a range of nutrients as well as electrolytes so is great for rehydrating post exercise. Obviously it’s all the more fun when it is direct from a coconut!
4. INFUSED WATER
Sometimes simply sprucing up tap water with a slice of cucumber, some mint or a few berries can turn an otherwise quite boring drink into something that looks visually pleasing and tastes more exciting too. Our little people like to choose what goes in too – quite often involving some herbs from the garden and a nice slice of fruit.
5. HERBAL TEA
This one sits high on our list. We are total suckers for a happy, healthy herbal brew and see it as an ideal drink for children too. There are lots of great options suitable for kids – from rooibos to camomile. Here at Small & Wild, we’ve done the hard work for you and created a range of blends which are not only naturally caffeine free, safe for little tummies and contain no added sugar, but are also totally delicious. The ritual of sitting down for a cup of tea is also good for a spot of mindfulness and works wonders for lowering anxiety levels. We love that you can drink it warm or iced, depending on your mood and the weather!
6. VEGETABLE SMOOTHIE
The trick with smoothies is to major on the veggies and only add a small bit of fruit to keep the sugar content down. We enjoy a variation on Amelia Freer’s Summertime smoothie, which is packed with green leafy vegetables and then kiwi to add a little sweetness. Add in coconut water as the liquid, a little nut butter and some avocado and you’ve pretty much got a balanced and hydrating meal in a glass. Perfect for those pickier eaters who might make it their aim to avoid any greens on their plate and hydrating too.
Time to put the kettle on…
All that talk of hydration has made us thirsty - we’re off to put the kettle on for a herbal brew. We would love to hear your best tips for keeping your little people hydrated. Find us on Instagram or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy tea drinking
Becky & Kate