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Ask Dr. Sears: Getting Kids Into the H2O Habit

Q  My kids simply don't drink enough water. They love juice, so I usually give them that, but I'm concerned that they're not hydrated enough  -- for example, they always have chapped lips. How can I get them to drink water without a fight?
[ANSWER {You're right to be concerned about your kids' water intake. It is indeed the best drink you can give your child. Water lubricates the joints, cools the system, and makes muscles work efficiently and organs function properly. It's the main fluid in blood, aiding the passage of nutrients throughout the body. I've found that not drinking enough fluids is a common cause of constipation in my patients. If a child doesn't get enough water, the colon reabsorbs the water from the waste material, causing the bowel movements to be hard. The brain also needs water to function well: Kids who aren't sufficiently hydrated may show impaired concentration in school. It's especially important for a child with a cold to drink lots of fluids as this keeps the membranes moist and the secretions thin and moving so they don't get more infected.

As a general guide, infants need to take in about 1.5 ounces of fluids per pound of weight per day. Older children need around one ounce per pound per day. So, a 60-pound child should drink about eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids a day. If he's been running around a lot or participating in some other intense activity, or it's a very hot day, he may need to drink a few more glasses. Here are some ways to hydrate your kids:

Make water easily accessible. Place pitchers or bottles of water around your home, especially in the kitchen, the bedroom, and in the family room. This gives your children the message that when they're thirsty, they should reach for a glass of water. Place a bottle of water on their nightstands to make it readily available should they wake up thirsty in the middle of the night or in the morning. Serve water with meals instead of juice or soda. The constant exposure to water will make a big difference.

Flavor or fizz it. While you want your children to get in the habit of drinking plain water, kids will always love juice. And they can still have their favorites  -- just dilute it. Mix three parts water to one part of 100 percent fruit juice for a healthier drink. Or add a squirt of lemon juice or a wedge of lemon, lime, or orange to the water. For a fizzy treat, serve plain seltzer  -- it's a fantastic substitute for soda.

Take it to go. Always bring a bottle of water on car rides, family walks, and other outings.

Serve water-rich foods. Many good-for-you foods, such as soup, fruit, and milk, contain 80 to 90 percent water. Watermelon is a great water-logged fruit  -- and a kid-friendly favorite. Homemade juice popsicles and smoothies are another sweet treat that will fill your kids with fluid.}]

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