Top tips to keep your toddler hydrated

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.

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Further Reading

  • Katie Fox, Primary School Teacher   Due to coronavirus, playgroups and nurseries are shut and those children due to start school in a few months will be out of routine and away from friends. It is understandable that many parents are worried about getting their children ready for September. Children learn and progress at different rates so there are no set criteria on what they need to be able to know or do when they first start nursery, but if they have had some experience learning at home it could help to make it a smoother transition. Turn taking games, imaginative play, reading, and developing fine and gross motor skills can promote independence, build confidence and help develop simple skills.
  • Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist Dr Maddy Harris, Clinical Psychologist   In times of crisis – such as the one we are currently living in – parents may find that the normal stresses of everyday life are magnified and additional worries and concerns emerge. Knowing how to cope may prove difficult, but an approach which has widely been discussed in the media and on social media is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).The premise of ACT is that fears and anxieties are seen as real and cannot be ‘challenged’ away, unlike with cognitive behavioural therapy. By concentrating on our actions we are able to work past our fears. This method may help those struggling with this new chaotic routine we find ourselves in. The Infant & Toddler Forum are here to help with our top tips on how to apply this intervention.
  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   As social distancing policies are put in place, and schools and nurseries shut their doors indefinitely, keeping your toddlers entertained and active for hours on end during COVID-19 may seem daunting and at times virtually impossible! Parents and carers have been thrown into a cozy and chaotic ‘new normal’ and may wonder how they can meet the recommended three hours a day of physical activity for under-fives who are walking. But do not panic, the Infant & Toddler Forum are here to help make sure you have plenty of ideas to keep your toddler happy and entertained whilst encouraging physical activity.