How Much Water Should Kids Drink?

Just like adults, kids need plenty of water to carry out daily functions. As a parent, it can be hard to gauge how much water your child needs to stay properly hydrated. To help you get started, we’ve created a guide to help you learn why water is so important, and how much of it your child needs to drink every day.

Why do kids need to drink water?

Water is one of the most important parts of any child’s diet. It is essential in keeping bowel movements regular and helping to prevent conditions such as urinary tract infections and kidney stones.
Water also allows us to regulate our body temperature. When our bodies heat up—because of a hot day or because of physical activity, for instance—the brain alerts the sweat glands to produce sweat. When children don’t drink enough water, The body cools itself by the evaporation of sweat from the skin. If dehydrated, their bodies can’t sweat enough to stay cool.

Young child drinking water at table

How much water should my child drink a day?

At CHOC, we recommend that kids drink the amounts of water below according to their age. It is important to note that children should drink the number of 8-ounce cups of water equal to their age, with a minimum of 64 ounces of water for children over the age of 8. These amounts do not include other beverages they may consume in a day such as milk and juice.

Water Intake by Age

Age in years
Number of 8 oz cups
9 and older
Eight 8 oz cups = 2 Liters

Water Intake by Weight

While we recommend using age as the primary criteria for toddlers and younger children, weight can be a helpful metric when determining water intake for older children and teenagers. When it comes to weight, it is a general rule that you should try to drink close to half an ounce of water for each pound you weigh. For example, if your child weighs 125 lbs., they should be drinking close to eight 8-ounce glasses a day, for a total of 64 ounces of water.

When can a baby drink water?

Babies should drink only breast milk or formula until they reach six months. After the six-month mark, you can start to give your baby 2-3 ounces of water at a time, in addition to breastmilk or formula. Breastmilk or formula will continue to be their primary drink until they reach the age of twelve months. After that point, you can begin to slowly transition your toddler to water as their primary beverage.

What are the signs of dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when a child loses more fluid than they consume, and their bodies no longer have enough water to carry out normal functions. Dehydration may happen as a result of physical exercise, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or simply not drinking enough water.

Signs of Dehydration in Babies

If you are worried that your baby may be dehydrated, please call your pediatrician immediately. The most noticeable signs of dehydration in babies include:

  • Fewer wet diapers
  • Increased signs of tiredness
  • Sunken soft spot (fontanelle) on the baby’s head
  • No tears when crying

Signs of Dehydration in Kids

A child will likely not know they are thirsty until they are already dehydrated, so it is important to keep a close eye on them. This is especially true for active children as well as during warmer weather. Signs of dehydration in kids include:

  • Dry lips
  • Sticky mouth
  • Infrequent urination or dark-colored urine
  • Sleepy and irritable
  • Flushed skin
  • Light headedness
  • Cramps
  • Thirst
  • Headache
  • Rapid pulse
  • Feeling excessively hot or cold

How can I get kids to drink more water?

Getting your child to drink enough water can sometimes be a challenge. Here are some fun and creative ways to make sure your child stays hydrated:

    • Make a game out of it! Put a water drinking chart on the fridge and add stars for each cup of water they drink in a day. This is a great way to encourage your child to drink more water.
    • Fruit infused water or ice cubes.
    • Fruits and veggies high in water content (watermelon, cucumber, zucchini, celery, berries).
    • Fun water bottles or sippy cups.
    • Fruit Smoothies made mostly of water.
    • Homemade popsicles with a little fruit juice and lots of water

Check out more about healthy drink alternatives for your child.

Beverage Limitations and Moderations

Water, milk and, or milk alternatives should be the staple drinks in your child’s diet. While a little bit of juice or chocolate milk here and there is okay, it is important that the drinks you choose are low in sugar. Beverages that are high in sugar can discourage kids from drinking water and can even make them less hungry for nutritious food. When selecting a beverage for your child, here are some sugary drinks to limit:

    • Juice – 100% fruit juices are loaded with vitamins but also contain a lot of sugar. Many juices include artificial flavors, colors and added sugars; these drinks should be given in limited quantities to children.
    • Soda – Sodas are loaded with sugar and sometimes caffeine. Even ‘diet’ sodas are not recommended for children.
    • Flavored milk – Milk alone has lactose, which is a natural sugar. Most flavored milks like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry are loaded with extra sugars and should be avoided unless for a special treat.
    • Artificially Sweetened Drinks – This includes any beverage labeled as “diet.”
    • Energy Drinks – These are usually loaded with caffeine, sugar and other ingredients like taurine that should be limited for a growing child. These drinks can also lead to dependence and should not be given to children.
    • Sports Drinks – They are designed to replace minerals (electrolytes), salts and sugars during and after intense exercise and should not be used on days when kids are not exerting a lot of energy.
    • Caffeinated Beverages – This includes most coffees and teas.

Are plastic water bottles safe for kids?

According to the NIH, plastic water bottles, although convenient, can release harmful toxins into our water. The chemicals that are most concerning to the experts are phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA). Early studies show that these chemicals may affect the development of children including brain development, hormones, or chemicals that regulate metabolism. The immune system, as well as the reproductive system, may also be affected. To be on the safe side, CHOC recommends parents choose BPA and phthalate-free water bottles for children.

What is the best type of water to give a child?

There are many different types of water on the market from tap to expensive artesian water with high levels of alkalinity. Tap water is the most affordable type of water and in most cases, in the United States, tap water is safe for children. Tap water usually includes small levels of fluoride, so take that into consideration when consuming larger volumes of tap water. Some bottled waters are simply filtered tap water and others are sourced from natural springs that contain minerals. All of these forms of water are safe for children in moderation. Water that comes from natural sources and bottled in BPA & phthalate-free plastics are the best choice for children.

Above all, it is important to remember to act as a good role model by demonstrating proper hydration habits for your child. If you suspect your child may be dehydrated, CHOC’s Urology program has dedicated doctors, specialists and treatments just for kids.