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What are the benefits of drinking water?

At birth, a baby’s body consists of about 75 per cent fluid. For older children and adults, about 60 per cent of the body is fluid. Fluid is really important for health, as the cells in our bodies depend on it to function normally and flush waste products. Both the amount and type of fluids that adults and children consume can have a significant impact on their health.

How much water does an average child need?

The amount a child needs to drink can vary greatly depending on age and gender, as well as weather and physical activity. As a general rule of thumb, children aged four to 13 should aim to drink approximately six to eight glasses of fluid a day, with younger children needing smaller servings – about 150ml for a four-year-old and 250ml for an older child.

How much water should my child drink a day?

This depends on their age and gender, as follows:

  • Boys and girls aged four to eight need 1.1-1.3 litres per day
  • Girls aged nine to 13 need 1.3-.5 litres per day.
  • Boys aged nine to 13 need 1.5-1.7 litres per day.

These amounts are based on the guidelines set by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

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In addition to the fluid we get from drinks, many foods contain water, so these will also top up fluid intake. Examples include cucumber and watermelon, which are over 90 per cent water.

Try these child-friendly watermelon lollies or our watermelon & strawberry slushie.

What signs might suggest my child is dehydrated?

Hydration is particularly important for children, as they have higher water requirements in relation to their body weight. Infants and young children in particular are also less heat-tolerant, so drinking small amounts more often is essential, particularly in hot weather and when they are very active. As children don’t always recognise the early stages of thirst, they are at risk of becoming dehydrated. Even mild dehydration can cause irritability, tiredness, headaches, lack of concentration, reduced mental performance and dry skin in children.

What are the best drinks to keep my child well hydrated?

Water is the best choice for children, so it’s good to introduce water as a drink early on to get your child used to the taste. Other drinks such as milk and fruit juice can also provide fluid and other nutrients.

Pure unsweetened fruit juice and smoothies count as one of your five-a-day, contributing useful amounts of vitamin C. However, they are quite acidic and contain natural free sugars, so guidelines suggest drinking no more than one 150ml glass per day, ideally at mealtimes. Other acidic drinks, such as fizzy drinks and squashes, should be limited or avoided altogether, even if they're sugar-free – the acid can damage tooth enamel, and sugary drinks can lead to dental decay. They also contribute excess calories. It’s recommended that children should not consume caffeine-containing energy drinks.

How can I encourage my child to drink more water?

It’s a good idea for parents to act as role models, drinking water throughout the day, starting at breakfast time. As with fussy eating, if your child doesn’t like drinking, don’t panic. Try these tips to encourage them to drink more:

  • Ensure children have a drink before school with breakfast, and before and during playtime
  • Offer drinks regularly, especially when the weather is warm
  • Remember that many foods (such as fruit, vegetables and yogurt, milk with cereal, soup) have a high-water content and contribute to fluid intake
  • When out and about or at nursery or school, pack a bottle of watee
  • Try and try again: repeated tastings may help children to develop a taste for water
  • Let your child choose their own cup or water bottle and let them fill it themselves
  • Add ice, slices of fruit or berries to jazz it up a bit and make the water look more interesting

When should I refer to my GP?

Babies and children are more at risk of dehydration than older children. Signs and symptoms will depend on the age of your child. However, if your child is passing urine less frequently; feels lightheaded or lethargic; or has sunken eyes or a dry mouth, lips and tongue, refer to your GP or healthcare practitioner. Similarly, speak to your GP if your child complains of a consistent thirst.

Found this useful? You might also like:

Top 5 healthy snacks for kids
Childhood obesity – why is it on the rise?
Healthy eating: what schoolchildren need
37 healthy kids’ recipes
How much water should I drink today?

How do you encourage your child to drink more regularly? Share your experience in the comments below.

All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.


Frankie is a registered dietitian and public health nutritionist with over 20 years' experience. With a PhD in nutrition, Frankie has worked in the NHS as well as in academic research and charity sectors and now works as a freelance consultant. Frankie has a wealth of experience in communicating a sensible fad-free approach to healthy eating for all ages, but specialises in maternal and childhood nutrition with practical hands-on experience based on feeding her own four children. Frankie has been writing for BBC Good Food since 2016 and also contributes to news and current affairs programmes across TV and radio as well as online and print media as a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association.

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