are at greater risk of dehydration
than adults due to their lower body weight
and smaller reserve of body fluids
. Equally, whilst adults
often have easy access
to a supply of water
, children tend to rely
on their caregivers
to provide drinks and often don't recognise
the early stages of thirst
. Research s
uggests that just a one to two per cent
body weight loss can lead to significant reduction
s in concentration and mental performanc
e. As a child's body
is around 60 per cent water
, it is important to keep them topped up with fluid
during the day.
The effect of dehydration
on mental function is not very well known
about in children. Recent research
showed that children offered extra water
reported less thirst
and performed better
when visual attention tasks
were carried out. This suggests that children's mental performance
can be improved
when they drink more water.
There is an important message
for schools since it is often difficult
for children to access water
throughout the day. Teachers
may need to be convinced about the positive role
that adequate hydration
plays in maintaining normal attention span
and performance in schoolchildren.
Regular consumption of sugar sweetened beverages
, including fruit juice drinks, has been linked to excess weight
gain and obesity in children. The School Food Trust
aims to encourage healthy hydration habits
in children. They recommend
that schools serve only plain, natural drinks
such as water, milk and pure fruit/vegetable juices
In summary, water
is one of the most natural
, healthy beverages that children can drink. Encouraging children
to quench their thirst
before offering other types of beverages will help children to develop a taste
for water. This is the first step
towards developing lifelong healthy preferences
. Choosing to offer water
instead of calorie-laden soft drinks
can also help children to maintain a healthy body weight
as they grow, as well as preventing dental decay
and erosion. It is important that parents
make sure that young children are offered sufficient amounts
of water to maintain optimal hydration
. Parents of schoolchildren
should encourage them to make use of any water supplied at school
in order to support their children's mental performance
during the day.Top tips:
- Children should aim to hydrate healthily with plain, natural drinks that are unsweetened and free from additives.
- Limit empty calories by putting a bottle of water in lunchboxes instead of a sugary drink.
- Parents and other caregivers should offer younger children drinks on a regular basis and actively encourage consumption.
- Children should aim to have six to eight drinks per day which should ideally be water, milk or fruit/vegetable juices.
- Children taking part in sports need to replenish the lost fluids by drinking more water.