Did you know kids’ bodies are 60-70% water? That may seem like a lot, but kids actually get dehydrated quickly because they lose more water through the skin when they sweat, compared to adults.

So what are the best ways for us to make sure kids are taking in enough water as we face the inevitable summer heatwave? (Hint: sugar-sweetened drinks are a no-no.)

Connecticut Children’s nutrition expert, Jennifer Zarrilli, has the answers.  

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First, how much water does your child actually need?

That’s a great question—and the answer is, it depends! (Long story short, anywhere from 7 to 14 cups per day.) Check out this resource from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for a complete breakdown by age and by sex. Keep the following facts in mind:

  • Water is absolutely essential for a healthy, functioning body. It helps to keep body temperature in check, transports nutrients and oxygen, carries away waste and lubricates joints and body tissue.
  • The recommended amount of water may seem like a lot, but it’s actually total water intake. You’ll learn more about that below, so don’t worry if your 8-year-old won’t drink a full seven cups of water.
  • Age, weight and sex are the determining factors for how much water your child needs. If you’re unsure, ask your child’s doctor.

Now, let’s get creative with keeping your child hydrated!

1. Decorate a water bottle. 

Buy a plain, durable water bottle or hydroflask with enough capacity to last all day if they can’t get to a water source for refills. Then, turn plain, empty bottles into a personal work of “DIY” art.

Think: water proof stickers and labels, permanent marker, decals and even etching. Pinterest is a great place to start for inspiration. Fun tip—head to your local art supply store together to kick of your adventure.

Of course, if your child’s water bottle has an opening for straws, get funky with those, too. Swirly straws are always in style.

2. Jazz up the water, too. 

Who says water has to be boring? Try making homemade flavored water by:

  • Freezing citrus slices, strawberries or watermelon chunks for an added “cool” punch throughout the hot day.
  • Infusing it with cucumber slices and even herbs like mint, basil or anything from the garden.
  • Adding an ounce of 100% juice to every seven ounces of water for a hint of sweetness without the added sugar.

Or, head to the store and look for already-made flavored waters. Here are some great ideas and brands:

  • Hint Water—fruit-infused waters with no sweeteners at all, and no calories
  • Seltzer—a staple for many of us that never gets old. Plus, bring on the flavor. Watermelon is popular.
  • Honest Kids® juice pouches and other drinks—refreshing, flavorful and an all-around good choice.

All of these ideas are great for kids with diabetes or those who are watching their sugar intake for other health reasons.

3. Make home-made, healthy popsicles or frozen fruit treats.

Blended frozen fruit and yogurt make a refreshing and satisfying summer treat! There are so many things you can do with popsicles—it never gets old.

Try these strawberry yogurt popsicles (third recipe at the link) for those sweltering days. They’re effortless and—most importantly—delicious!

Or, keep it simple and freeze small batches of sliced fruit for an on-the-go refreshing snack. Grapes, watermelon, mango, strawberries—the possibilities are really endless!

Sisters eating popsicles

4. Start the morning with yogurt, or a smoothie. 

There’s so many ways to jazz up yogurt and smoothies, so make them your kid’s breakfast of champions! Layer up calcium- and protein-rich Greek yogurt with juicy fruit and low-sugar granola for the perfect parfait.

Take a trip to the tropics right from your kitchen with this tropical fruit yogurt smoothie recipe from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Or, try this unique take on a classic blueberry banana smoothie.

5. Pack water-rich foods for the day.

Did you know? Kids (and adults!) can hydrate from both soups and water-rich snacks? Here are just some of many ideas to pack in their summer camp lunchbox:

  • Tomato, cucumber and bell pepper gazpacho—without the travel time to Spain or Portugal!
  • Roasted carrot and beet soup—in a thermos or great cold. Plus, the vibrant color makes it irresistible.
  • Watermelon chunks—that’s 92 percent water right there! Your child will also get some fiber, vitamins C and A, magnesium, and antioxidants like lycopene.
  • Cucumber slices—actually a fruit, this water-rich “veggie” is almost all And thrown in some potassium, vitamin K and magnesium.
  • Zucchini—cucumber’s cousin is 94 percent water, packed with vitamin c and extremely versatile. Zucchini noodles or “zoodles” are still a hot trend, and one that’s here to stay. Try spiralizing zucchini and tossing it with some dressing or cold sesame or peanut sauce for a refreshing side.
  • Strawberries— around 91 percent water and rich in fiber, minerals and vitamins (especially C). Plus, studies show that eating strawberries regularly can help reduce inflammation: a win-win.

With a little effort—and a whole lot of fun—your child will make hydration a part of their daily routine, and their bodies will thank them (and you!) for it.