Melissa Arca: Get kids in habit of drinking water

Published: Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1D

Getting your child to drink enough water can rank right up there with trying to get her to eat broccoli. Depending on the child, of course. But hydrating kids adequately is something we pediatricians often counsel parents about.

It is an important part of your child's daily diet. Too little can leave him prone to constipation, headaches and fatigue. Water can replace lost fluids during a time of illness with a cough, cold, or the flu; and it is essential when your child is out running around all day.

And too much of sugary beverages can contribute to obesity, cavities and other unhealthful food choices. Get into the habit early on of making water her main source of hydration.

Keep in mind that children don't actually "need" juice, so limit it to 4 to 6 ounces per day and avoid the temptation to put anything but milk or water in your infant's bottle. More than anything, strive to be an excellent water drinking role model yourself.

How do you get a child to drink her water? Sometimes, it really is all about the presentation and our persistence. Here are a few tips to help make that water go down a lot easier.

Made to order: Find out how your child likes to drink her water. It may take a little experimenting, but kids (just like adults) tend to have a preference on how they'll take their water. My son loves ice-cold water. Served with ice (and a straw) and he'll drink away. My daughter, on the other hand, isn't such a fan of ice and likes it with a splash of lemonade.

Keep it on hand: Carry around plenty of water wherever you go. A refillable water bottle sent to school with your kids is a great idea too. Remind them to drink throughout the day. And when they suddenly complain how thirsty they are midway to Grandma and Grandpa's house, good thing you've packed the water.

Be a good role model: This more than anything is essential to helping kids drink their water. Drink your water, too. Show your kids you mean what you say. Water is important to keeping a body healthy, and you know it. They will take these nonverbal cues to heart and drink up, too.

Fun cups: For younger kids, a new cup with a straw or favorite character may just be the trick. Take it wherever you go, and just remember to fill it only with water. Not soda or juice.

Limited options: Keep soda and other sugary beverages out of your home so kids aren't tempted to reach for those instead. If you child insists on juice with dinner, have a rule that she needs to finish her cup of water first or water it down (half juice, half water).

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