How Much Water Should Kids Drink?

Help kids stay healthy and hydrated with the right fluids.

How much water should kids drink
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Do you wonder how much water your kids should drink? For good health and energy to fuel their bodies, they need plenty of it. See the chart below, but a good starting point is 6 to 8 cups a day for kids and teens, plus all their recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables—since those foods contain lots of water too.

Good old H2O is a perfect beverage choice for both adults and children since it hydrates without adding unnecessary calories.

Our bodies use water to regulate temperature, eliminate waste, and cushion our spinal cord and joints. Milk and juice offer benefits, too, as a source of essential nutrients such as calcium and vitamin C. But they come with sugar and fat, which most kids and adults should consume in limited quantities.

How Much Water Should Kids Drink Every Day?

You've probably heard the advice that adults should drink 8 cups of water every day, or 64 ounces total. Does the same rule apply to children? Yes and no. According to the Institute of Medicine (a division of the National Academy of Sciences, charged with advising the nation on health topics), most adults get all the liquids they need every day just by eating and drinking normally—with meals, and when they are thirsty. Any beverages, including caffeinated ones, count toward the daily fluid intake your body needs (which is closer to 10 cups than 8, by the way).

 

Kids under 8 years old need a little less fluid than adults and older kids, but the advice is the same—they should drink healthy beverages with meals, plus sip water any time they are thirsty. In general, aim for the following. "Total Water" means this chart includes the water kids get from eating fruits and vegetables.

A cup equals 8 ounces.

Age Range    Gender     Total Water (cups/day)
4 to 8 years         Girls and boys     5
9 to 13 years     Girls 7
  Boys 8
14 to 18 years Girls     8
  Boys 11


Of course, if kids are playing or exercising vigorously, or if it's very hot outside, they'll need more liquids to make up for what their bodies are losing to perspiration. Depending on their size, this could mean anywhere from 4 to 16 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. To figure out how much your child needs, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests weighing him before and after he exercises so you can see how much fluid he lost (and therefore needs to replace).

What Other Liquids Should Kids Drink?

These beverage guidelines help you plan your child's fluid intake.

  • Water: Straight from the tap is fine (bottled isn't necessary), but your child may drink more if it's chilled, and/or if she has a special cup, bottle, or canteen for her H2O. Label it and send it along to school, preschool, camp, and sports practices.
  • Milk: Make it low- or non-fat (for kids 2 and up; littler ones need the fat for brain development). Serve two cups a day for kids 8 and under, three cups for older children and teens. Kids need the calcium and vitamin D in dairy products, so if your child doesn't like milk, try flavoring it (but watch the sugar content). Or find other sources of these nutrients.
  • Juice: Limit to 4-6 ounces a day for kids 6 and under (that's ½ to ¾ of a cup). Older kids and teens can have 8-12 ounces a day, max. One hundred percent fruit juice is best—check the label. Fruit drinks, punches, and ades may have added sugars (and calories). That 100% fruit juice counts as one of your child's servings of fruit for the day—but remember it doesn't have the fiber that whole fruit does.
  • Sports drinks: Generally, avoid these since they add calories and sugar, but few nutrients, to your child's diet. But if he's exercising vigorously and prefers sports drinks to water, let him drink up—it's more important that he stays hydrated.
  • Soda: Avoid. It's nothing but empty calories.
  • Energy drinks: Avoid these too. They can contain high doses of caffeine and other supplements that aren't healthy for kids.

Sources

Water and Nutrition. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 2016.

Bergeron, MF. Reducing Sports Heat Illness Risk. Pediatrics in Review 2013;34(6).

Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Recommended Dietary Allowance and Adequate Intake Values, Total Water and Macronutrients. November 30, 2010.

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