Water is the best thing you can give your kids to drink during the hot summer days. But how do you get them to drink it? How do you get them to chug down plain old water at the pool when they're surrounded by other kids guzzling down sugary juice boxes? How do you get your hard-playing child to drink water instead of sugar-laden sports drinks? How do you expect them to get a bottle of water at the baseball game instead of a cold, fizzy soda?
The key is to always make water the first–and often, only–option.
My boys get juice in the morning with breakfast and milk with dinner. But at lunch and throughout the day, water is what they drink. Juice boxes, sports drinks and soda are options only on special occasions: when friends come over, sometimes when we're out or as a treat they've earned.
Part of the reason we're able to do this is because our boys are young--2 and 4--and they don't know any different. This is just life for our family. It's a habit for my husband and I as well as the boys. When we leave for school and daycare each morning, all four of us are carrying a water bottle.
But we're already noticing that our 4-year-old, who sometimes asks for the sweeter drinks, is developing a willingness to pass up those sugary drinks for water. He knows that water makes him feel good and it doesn't make his belly ache when he drinks it too fast, unlike juice.
If you've got young children, start them early with water and be consistent. They'll drink it and like it. Half of the human body is water; we're hard-wired to crave it.
If your older children aren't in the habit of drinking water, or are rebelling against it, here are some tricks to keep them hydrated:
Make it special: Get some bendy straws for big glasses of ice water. Find some big, colorful, insulated mugs. Let your kids pick out their own drinking vessels. My littlest one loves his cartoon water bottle more than some of his toys, so it's always near him and ready for a sip.
Make it portable: Water bottles are your best ally. Get your kid a water bottle he likes. Keep it with him. If he's little, make him feel important by allowing him to fill it himself. If he's older, make sure it's a bottle he's willing to carry. You want water to always be accessible.
Spike it: Some people, especially kids in the habit of drinking juice or sports drinks, think water is too plain. Don't fight with them. Splash in a little lemon or lime juice. Throw in frozen fruit (raspberries work great for this), or mint leaves. You'll add enough flavor to get them to drink it, which is what's important.
Get icy cold: Kids love ice. Even as an adult, there's something fun and a bit festive about the clinking of cubes in a glass. As my sons say, icy cold water is just good.
Finally, don't be afraid to let your kids know why you want them to drink water. Tell them how important it is to stay hydrated. Tell them how sugary drinks don't really quench your thirst. This is especially true for older kids, but I've found that even my little guys appreciate knowing how their bodies work. It's cool and becomes something for them to be proud about--that they know the WHY behind a family rule as well as the fact that they're doing something good for themselves.
What are your tricks to get your kids to drink water?
Hillary Copsey is a newspaper features editor in Florida with experience writing about everything from population trends to health-care issues. As the mother of two boys, she also is versed in searching for daycares, cooking healthy dinners on the fly and playing with trucks. She co-writes the blog Not raising brats. She writes about parenting for dailySpark and BabyFit.com.