As the weather becomes warmer and more inviting most of us will be spending ample time outside soaking in that vitamin D and enjoying the beginning of the summer breeze. Everyone knows that sunscreen is a must when spending time outside, but sometimes we forget the importance of hydration. Hydration and its application to early childhood education have not been intricately studied until recently. Studies show that nearly half of all children do not consume the appropriate, daily amount of water. One study specifically found that although children spend 50% of their day at school, the average child only consumes 14% of the necessary water intake for the day. At face value, you may be wondering why this is important, so let me break it down for you.
Since our bodies consist of 60-70% water, hydration is key to a successful day. Not only does water keep our body temperature regulated, but water also keeps us healthy by flushing out harmful chemicals, aiding in digestion, and keeping our joints well lubricated. Additionally, studies have shown that water intake is directly correlated to concentration and cognition. When we are dehydrated, our brains slow down; the most common way this shows up physically is in headaches and grogginess. Children especially are sensitive to dehydration as their bodies consist of more water than adults, so their water stores get depleted quicker. When this happens, they become inattentive and often disruptive. Next time you find yourself in a power struggle with the toddlers in your care, maybe it’s time to suggest that everyone take a short break to get a drink, recharge those brain juices, and try again.
If you have picky children who don’t like water but prefer juices and milk or even soda, consider offering them infused water using berries, cucumbers, mint, and anything else they enjoy. You can also create an ice cube station where they can fill ice cube trays with fruits and water to enjoy in their drinks; not only is this a great sensory experience, but it will also help them gain interest in water. And lastly, it is important that you model good drinking habits by showing them how you enjoy drinking water. Children model their behaviors on what they observe, and you are a powerful instrument for positive change.
Check out the resources below for many helpful tips!
The Importance of Hydration in Children // Massachusetts SNAP-Ed
Hydration in Children: What Do We Know and Why Does it Matter? // Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism