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How Much Water Should a Child Drink a Day?

By Holly L. Roberts

Though fruit, sugar-free frozen treats and even low-fat milk are all good ways to help your child stay hydrated, water plays an essential role in your child's health. In addition to maintaining your body's internal water balance, most drinking water contains fluoride, a mineral that strengthens your child's teeth, explains Ellen Albertson, a registered dietitian, on BabyCenter.com.

The Facts

Children need between five and eight cups of water each day, according to a study led by researchers at Queens College of the City University of New York and published in the October 2010 issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." But some children may be fine with less water, and children who are very active may need more. Your child may need more water during the day when it's hot outside or when he's sick or recovering from an illness.

Identification

It's not always easy to tell if your child is getting enough water, but there are a few clues you can look for. If your child seems tired or has a headache, it could be a sign that she needs more water. Your child's urine also reveals her hydration level: When her urine is dark yellow or smelly, it's a sign she's not getting enough water. Don't rely on your child's thirst to let you know when she needs water. People are usually already dehydrated by the time they feel thirsty.

Benefits

Your child's body is made up of 60 percent water, and that water plays an essential role in every system of your child's body. When your child doesn't get enough water, he can develop muscle weakness, dry mouth, headaches and fatigue, according to the study published in the October 2010 issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition."

Significance

As few as 10 percent of girls and 15 percent of boys get the recommended amount of water each day, according to the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" study. The study, which looked at the water intake of 3,978 girls and boys from a national nutrition study conducted from 2005 to 2006, found that children were more likely to consume high-sugar beverages than water, especially at meal time, making it difficult for them to get the recommended amount of water.

Expert Insight

If you want your child to drink more water, one of the best ways to encourage her is by drinking more water yourself, according to BabyCenter.com, an online pregnancy and parenting information resource. Children tend to prefer the taste of water when it's cold, says BabyCenter.com, so keeping water in the refrigerator and in bottles or containers that are easy for your child to grab herself can also help encourage her to drink more water.

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