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How to Get Your Kids to Drink Water

By , Hillary Copsey
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

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BLOND1E 3/10/2021
Water tastes awful. It's hard even as an adult to drink it. But we try... Report
TOMG155 1/15/2021
Good tips, just don't give in, they are not missing anything. Just like adults, we give in too easy. Report
ERIN_POSCH 9/4/2020
thanks for sharing Report
RO2BENT 6/25/2020
Start early, make soda a treat like dessert Report
Thank you Report
Water is my favorite drink! Report
Thank you for the information Report
I agree! hahaha Make it the ONLY option! I'm proud of my three girls for generally asking for water first. Of course there are occasions when we go out to a birthday party and if we hadn't of brought our own, the only drinks are pop or juice! No wonder all these kids have rotting teeth and digestive problems. It's so sad that there are parents who don't think water is needed. :( Report
When my daughter was small I always had a jug of ice cold lemon water for myself, she would help herself drinking my water. To this day 27 years later she prefers water, only she drinks it plain and room temperature. Report
My DH is not a water drinker, he drinks soda and alot of it. Therefore, it is hard to get the kids to drink water, they prefer soda. Only drinking rule that has held up in our household is that only milk is allowed with dinner. Once they have their first glass of milk then they may have something else to will almost always be soda. My biggest concern with them drinking soda is the caffeine. I try to keep them to 7Up or Sprite. Littlest one (6) loves root beer, I also keep it to caffeine-free.
I'm a huge water drinker. I'm hoping the kids will change as they grow into adults, but their father has not so I won't hold my breathe they will. Report
When I was a kid we got water and occasionally milk. No soda, no koolaid or other drinks. Only water. The occasional soda came from field trips (three times per year) or trips to other people's homes.

But as kids we all drank water because that's what my parents fed us. My parents drank water as well. We loved water. And all of us (four kids) carry water with us wherever we go.

I think that when kids hate water, veggies, etc. They are really adopting the feelings their parents have toward them. If a kid doesn't know better, they are going to drink it. Report
We have twin grandbaby boys age 15 months, and they started liking water very early! They love ice water, and milk. Juice is not their favorite! I am glad they like water so young, and I am trying to drink more myself. We don't drink much soda at all. Report
Getting our grandkids to drink water is easy to do: it's the only thing I drink: ice water, & they have special cups & glasses to choose from for their ice water. There's no juice nor pop in the house so it's just known that at our house, if you're thirsty, that's what we're drinking. "Cool people drink water." : ) Report
Let them see you drink it. We were raised in the south and my mother always had a BIG glass of ice water. We would all want some of her water just because she was drinking it. To this day, we all drink a lot of cold water with ice. Report
When I realized my son was drinking way to much sugary stuff, I had to look at myself and see that I was setting a bad example. Now, I only occasionally keep the sugary stuff in the house. If it's not there, the only option is water! Report
I have three children (13, 11, 8) and a husband who love Diet Dr. Pepper and we have always had it in our house until recently. Over the last 2 months, we have been weaning them away from it. It's a struggle, but we are making strides! Report
My kids had to drink water thats all there was, if you keep the bad stuff out it won't be going in. Report
I love the idea of given children sugary drinks only as a special treat. We as parents allows our kids to tell us and demand in some cases what they want to drink and for sure it's not water. Kids should not be given an option when it comes to drinking water. It is so important to drink water and today's kids forget that even there are a lot of benefits from drinking water. Thanks for putting this article out there for us parents to read. Report
YES - the only option. Our kids (now 9&12) have oj w/ b'fast, milk w/ dinner, and otherwise it's water, water, water. Other kids who come over are always shocked at the limited options - oh well. One thing we love is seltzer water - our little soda maker is used daily - for very special occasions we add the unsweetened flavors. Report
I live in a small pueblo in Andalusia where the children are safe to play out and which has several bars/cafes. I love the fact that when the children get hot and thirsty they can just run into any of these establishments, no matter how busy, and the owners/bar staff pour them glasses of cold water. Years ago, when my son was young, we lived in Catalonia in Northern Spain and when his friends came to play they always asked for water when offered refreshment. Report
It never even occurred to me that this could be an issue. If you're thirsty, you drink water, period.
But come to think of it, at my oldest's first bday, everyone was astounded that she didn't drink pop (soda) and in fact, had never had cake. Report
While staying hydrated is good, it only works for some children. I noticed a long time ago that I had to give my one child milk. Water affects her opposite of everyone else in the world. She can't have juice because her mouth would start to bleed. So, we do other things to keep her hydrated. My youngest is different. She can drink gallons of water at a time and still want more. fascinating. Report
I never had trouble giving my kids water- what's wrong with people nowadays?
If they are thirsty enough and that's the only option you give them they will clue in. An easier solution is to not give them so much juice, pop etc to begin with. Report
My wife and I diluted the juices we gave with water not to stretch out the juice, but to give them more h2o and less sugar. In addition the first time my daughter ever drank an actual soda, it made her sick and she was convinced from that point on that she couldn't drink orange soda. Report
I didn't really use "tricks" when my kids were growing up. I did, however, quit drinking soda when they were small for my own reasons - so most of their life they only ever saw me drink milk, juice, or water. I naturally have water next to me all the time, taking sips. Example is the best teacher.

I also didn't make it an exchange - have either soda or water, take soda away and make them drink water. Water was simply water. The rest were "drinks". "Drinks" were things we had with meals or as a treat - a liquid food. Water was something we had all the time to stay hydrated. Report
I hate plain water, so I wasn't good about giving it to my five children, but as adults they drink it now, as they buy Zypherhills bottled water. Report
Long ago when raising my son I offered him little water. My bad. Gave him healthy apple juice with no added sugar and other like fruit drinks, never sodas. Today he loves water! Our family found out it's the best thirst quincher and reach for it first . Report
My son is 12. He loves the Mio you can put in water! Report
I love this:
"The key is to always make water the first–and often, only–option".
In our home this is 100% true. Out of sight out of mind. And since it is what our kids know and all they ever see their parents drink, they don't even question it. A lot of times we flavor our water with fruit, sometimes a flavor packet, and on occasion sparkling water.
When our oldest (now 19) was small we made the mistake of allowing soda. I look back on all the unhealthy habits we made with her and am fortunate she is such a healthy girl. She is not like her parents, over weight and struggling to change. Now we have a 12 year old along with 9 year old twins and we are much “wiser & better prepared” parents. Soda was a very hard habit to break for us, but once made it seemed like it was such an easy thing that we should have done years ago.
I know that my children are going to get soda occasionally. With teenagers I accept I am not there to regulate every choice they make, nor do I want to. I have enough faith that I have influenced and instilled good food habits in my kids. And truly, an occasional treat in any way is perfectly fine by me :)
I use Talking Rain water to get my kids to drink water. It works great, it has flavor and fizz but with no artifical anything and no added calories. My youngest still doesn't like water that much, even the talking rain, but I will give him half juice half water, and milk. We rarely have soda or other sugary drinks at home. When we do it is a special treat. My kids don't mind, in fact my oldest loves water the most, he asks for it over any other choice. Report
Drinking water was the only thing I was firm about when I got pregnant. Breastmilk/formula then water. I'm the leading example in drinking water, so they have to follow suit.

I let them drink juice now and then but only as an occasional treat without calling it a treat. In hot weather I let them drink more of the juices or water them down, because drinking ONLY water and sweating in very hot weather can wash all the necessary minerals out of their body and that can lead to problems.
Occasionally I let them drink a glass of soda too, so they wouldn't behave like starved out animals if they went to a kiddy party where they serve different drinks. The only big no-no is coke (pepsi, coca-cola, no name brand, you name it), and I condition them against it on purpose. Not fan of the coffein business and I won't push my children into the vicious circle on purpose.

Turning back kids to water must be enormous work so I'm trying to be vigilant in these early years, using scientific explanations (on their level of course) why water is better for them.

One thing that could be useful: ALWAYS keep a bottle of water handy, so when you or your child gets thirsty, you don't have to go to a shop and be tempted by the fancy, colourful bottles! Report
I get these sugar free packets of electrolytes at the local health food store. You simply pour a packet into the bottle of water and shake. They help a lot on the hot days, when activity levels are high. Report
My nephew is two so i trick him with carbonanted flavored water from walmart. It's got the fizz to it, which he loves. He goes around the house showing everyone his "pop". Works every time :) Report
My question is: if I make water the only option, how long is it okay for my child to go without drinking? I have tried doing this before and was shocked to see her literally go all day (waking up until bed time) without drinking. I usually give her something like half-water half-crystal light which I know has artificial sweeteners and is probably just as terrible as sugar drinks if not worse.. or I give her half-and-half juice and water, or milk. She also drinks smoothies which I make with water. I just would like her to learn to drink water. I'll try some of these suggestions. Thanks. Report
I love these suggestions. We started our daughter on milk and water when she was little, and never introduced juice or soda. She gets milk with meals, and water any other time. She has a princess water bottle she picked out, and always asks for her water in her princess bottle. At 4 she's being exposed to soda and juices and such at birthday parties and other people's houses. She likes them, but they are never available at home, and she knows that. It's working for us, at least for now! Report