Guest blog by Laura Clark, Registered Dietitian
Children have busy lives. My son is always way too busy to get dressed for nursery and my daughter finds brushing her hair an inconvenience when she has far more important things to be doing.
And as for staying hydrated…
Once in school, the timetable dictates almost every moment of their day – add to this scenario that children aren’t as quick to pick up on thirst signals as adults and may not find water very appealing, it’s no wonder they can reach bedtime without much fluid being drunk at all.
It’s ironic really that it becomes challenging to drink enough when around 60-70% of our body is made of water. Relative to body weight, children have higher requirements than adults and these will alter considerably the older they get, the more active they are or when weather is warmer.
Percentages don’t mean anything of course, but the day to day reality of even mild dehydration is that the brain has to work harder to achieve the same ‘output’ – this can cause tiredness, headaches, lack of concentration and influence a child’s ability to perform. You may also notice their skin becomes drier.
Children over four will need at least a litre of fluid a day from drinks alone. Once they are hitting double figures in age, their fluid requirements increase to nearer 1.5L. So this is equal to around 6-8 drinks per day.
At birth, they start with milk and as solid food is introduced into the diet, they move onto water as an accompaniment to their meals. Then they reach the age when they become aware of all the choice and suddenly it’s a bit of a minefield as to what they should or shouldn’t have.
Along comes guidance, beware of added sugar, don’t give them fizzy drinks, only 150mls of fruit juice can count towards a portion of fruit and veg in a day, watch their teeth, be careful of acidic drinks, don’t fill them up on milk just before they have their tea, don’t give them caffeinated drinks… the advice keeps on coming.
But children still need hydrating so what is the best thing to do? Water is of course a really healthy choice to be encouraged as much as possible. We can try to channel their thirst mechanisms from afar during the school day and keep our fingers crossed that they’re being reminded to drink. It is important to offer water with meals and normalise its existence.
But hydration can be way more exciting than that!
Choices such as smoothies and milk can contribute to vitamin and mineral intakes when the right choices are made as long as they don’t replace the food or meals given in solid form. Drinks with added sugar or those containing caffeine should ideally be avoided. In children, caffeine can cause irritability and disrupt sleep patterns (and most children don’t need any help in that department as it is!)
The Small and Wild team has taken these factors into consideration in creating their range of naturally caffeine free, herbal tea blends made especially for children – which importantly contain no additives and no added sugar.
They are passionate about tea drinking, the ritual of sitting down, catching up and relaxing. As well as an innovative form of hydration, these sorts of drinks can also provide an opportunity for families to come together and share in a healthful experience. Children learn from modelling so if we as parents can demonstrate the importance of keeping hydrated (as well as simply just taking five to breathe and check in with ourselves and our children) then that’s a bonus.
Exciting times too if we can increase our repertoire of healthy drink options to offer – when it’s good for them and they actually enjoy it, that’s a winning combination in my book! Time to put the kettle on…
Laura Clark is a Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist. Through consultations, seminars, workshops, her informative and entertaining blog and much more Laura educates, motivates and inspires people to lead healthy, balanced lives. Laura also guest blogs for professional blogger and founder of multi-award winning parenting and lifestyle blog Honest Mum.
Since completing her dietetics degree, Laura has worked in a variety of positions within the health service in the UK and abroad and established her own consultancy LEC Nutrition, in 2005.
Laura is a working Mum juggling freelance life with the joys of parenthood. She is has recently begun vlogging with her 4 year old on subjects close to parent’s hearts, the star of the show is Sam, making the vlogs light hearted and entertaining whilst Laura shares evidence based information and ideas.