Hydration for kids – The right amount and the best drinks for children

Two young girls outdoors with one of them drinking a HIPP milk product.

Have you ever wondered if your child gets the right amount of hydration? Amid the daily shuffle of school, playdates, and storytime, it's easy to forget just how vital proper hydration is for our kids' overall well-being. 

This article is your roadmap to understanding the importance of hydration for your little ones. We'll explore their daily hydration needs, help you identify the subtle signs of dehydration, and, most importantly, provide insights into the foods for your children to be hydrated.

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: The information included in this material is for informational purposes only. Always seek medical advice for any concerns about health and nutrition.

How much water should kids drink daily?

The daily water intake for kids can vary depending on several factors, including their age, activity level, and the climate they live in. However, as a general guideline, the American Academy of Pediatrics Dentistry (AAPD) offers the following recommendations:

  • Infants (0-6 months): Infants who are exclusively breastfed typically get all the hydration they need from breast milk. 
  • Children (6 months to 1 year): Once children start consuming solid foods, they should also start drinking water. A general guideline is to offer 4-8 ounces of water per day in addition to breast milk or formula.
  • Children (12-24 months): Toddlers in this age group typically need about 4 cups (32 ounces) of fluids per day. This can include water, milk, and small amounts of 100% fruit juice.
  • Children (2-3 years): Kids in this age range usually require around 1-4 cups (8-32 ounces) of fluids daily. Water should be the primary source, followed by milk and small amounts of 100% fruit juice.
  • Children (4-5 years): Older children need approximately 1.5-5 cups (12-40 ounces) of fluids each day, primarily from water, milk, and limited servings of 100% fruit juice.

It's important to remember that individual needs can vary, so parents should monitor their child's thirst and urine output as a good indicator of whether they are getting enough fluids. 

Additionally, factors such as physical activity, weather conditions, and any specific health concerns may necessitate adjustments to these general guidelines. Always consult with a pediatrician for personalized recommendations based on your child's unique circumstances.

Signs of dehydration

Recognizing the signs of dehydration in kids is crucial for their well-being. Children may not always communicate their feelings as clearly as adults, so parents and caregivers should be vigilant for the following signs of dehydration in kids:

  • Dry or sticky mouth, lip, tongue or throat
  • Decreased urination
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Crying without tears
  • Sunken soft spot (Fontanelle)
  • Dry skin
  • Irritability, drowsy 
  • Lethargy or less active than usual
  • Thirst
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry Diapers
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea 

Foods and drinks to stay hydrated

There are many foods and drinks that can contribute significantly to your child’s daily fluid intake. Incorporating a variety of hydrating options into their diet not only ensures meeting their body's water needs but also provides additional nutrients that support overall hydration and health. 

Explore the following lists of foods and drinks that can help keep you hydrated throughout the day.

Foods high in water 

Foods that are high in water content can contribute significantly to your daily hydration. These foods are not only refreshing but also nutritious. Here are some foods that are particularly high in water:

  • Cucumbers
  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
  • Zucchini
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Tomatoes
  • Cantaloupe

Best healthy drinks for kids

While water is often the cheapest and healthiest drink choice for children's hydration, there are a variety of other healthy options available that can add both flavor and nutritional value to their diet. It's crucial to encourage diverse beverage choices to ensure that children not only stay adequately hydrated but also receive essential vitamins and minerals. 

Below, discover a selection of nutritious beverage alternatives that can make hydration for children both enjoyable and healthful.

  • Water (sterilized drinking water)
  • Milk
  • 100% fruit juice (in moderation)
  • Homemade smoothies
  • Coconut water
  • Herbal teas (unsweetened)
  • Diluted sports drinks (for active kids)
  • Flavored Water (without added sugars)

Remember to encourage a balance between food and drink choices that promote hydration and ensure that your child's overall diet is well-rounded and nutritious. Water should be the primary source of hydration for children. 

Frequently asked questions on hydration for kids:

How much water should a child drink a day?

The recommended daily water intake for children varies by age: Infants (0-6 months) primarily rely on breast milk for hydration, children (6 months to 1 year) 4-8 ounces of water, toddlers (12-24 months) need about 8-32 ounces of fluids per day, kids (2-3 years) require 8-32 ounces of fluids daily and older children (4-5 years) should aim for 12-40 ounces of water per day.

What is the best drink for kids?

The best drinks for kids are water and milk. Water is the healthiest choice, keeping children well-hydrated without any added sugars. Milk provides essential nutrients crucial for their growth and development. While 100% fruit juice, homemade smoothies, and other options can be enjoyed in moderation.

How to keep your children hydrated?

To keep your children hydrated, encourage them to drink water throughout the day. You can make it more appealing by offering fruit-infused water or colorful, fun water bottles. Additionally, serve water-rich foods like watermelon, cucumbers, and strawberries as snacks, and limit sugary drinks like soda or fruit juices.

How to keep a sick child hydrated?

Keeping a sick child hydrated is essential. Offer small, frequent sips of clear fluids like water, oral rehydration solutions, or diluted fruit juices. If the child has difficulty drinking, consider using a spoon or syringe

Additionally, avoid sugary or caffeinated drinks, as they can worsen dehydration. If your child's condition doesn't improve or you're concerned about their hydration, consult a pediatrician


[1] The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne (2018). Kids Health Information : Dehydration. [online] www.rch.org.au. Available at: https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Dehydration/

[2] Healthline. (2019). 7 Healthy Drinks for Kids (And 3 Unhealthy Ones). [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/healthy-drinks-for-kids

[3] THE REFERENCE MANUAL OF PEDIATRIC DENTISTRY 565 ENDORSEMENTS: HEALTHY BEVERAGES. (n.d.). Available at: https://www.aapd.org/globalassets/media/policies_guidelines/e_healthybev.pdf

[4] Rethy, J. (2020). Choose Water for Healthy Hydration. [online] HealthyChildren.org. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Choose-Water-for-Healthy-Hydration.aspx

[5] Australia, H. (2020). Hydration tips for children. [online] www.healthdirect.gov.au. Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/hydration-tips-for-children

[6] Childrens.com. (2018). Hydration tips for children [Infographic] - Children’s Health. [online] Available at: https://www.childrens.com/health-wellness/hydration-tip-for-your-childs-health-infographic


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