Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist
Staying hydrated throughout the day is especially important for toddlers, as they have higher fluid requirements in relation to their size than adults and are less tolerant of heat. Therefore, it is important to make sure your toddler drinks frequently throughout the day to help prevent dehydration.
Dehydration occurs when toddlers lose more fluid than they are taking in and can be more common during the summer months or after bursts of physical activity. It can be helpful to know the signs of dehydration, these include; tiredness, lethargy, thirst, headaches, poor concentration and irritability.
If you suspect your toddler isn’t drinking enough, an easy way to see if they are hydrated is to check the colour of their wee. If they are well hydrated, their wee should be a pale straw colour but if the wee is a darker colour, then this is a sign to offer your toddler more to drink. Fewer wet nappies or toilet visits compared to normal may also be a sign to watch out for.
Top tips for toddler drinks
We have collated our top tips to help you choose the right balance of drinks to keep your toddler hydrated and well:
- You should offer your toddler six to eight drinks (around 100-120 ml) per day with meals and snacks. More drinks may be needed in very hot weather and/or after physical play or activities
- The best drinks to give your toddler between and during meals and snacks are water and milk as they do not damage their teeth
- Even though milk does not damage teeth it should be limited to three drinks a day or less if toddlers are eating plenty of other dairy products such as yogurt and cheese. From 12 months, children should be given whole (full fat) milk because of the higher vitamin A content which supports their immune system. From the age of two years, toddlers can change to semi-skimmed milk if they are eating well and have a balanced diet
- From the age of one, you should be offering your toddler drinks in beakers or cups instead of bottles. Continued bottle sucking can become a difficult habit to break, and may even impact on both teeth and speech development
- Drinks high in sugar such as fruit juices and squashes should be avoided as they can cause dental caries. If given, they should be well diluted (one-part juice to 10 parts water) and limited to mealtimes only. Most sugary drinks (including fizzy drinks) are also acidic which can dissolve the enamel on toddlers’ teeth and may lead to tooth decay
- Tea and coffee should not be offered to toddlers, as they can reduce iron absorption and increase the risk of iron deficiency anaemia
If you found this blog helpful, you may wish to also visit our guidance and tips for parents on Healthy Eating for Toddlers, which provides helpful information on how to give your toddler a varied and nutritious diet.