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Fluid Intake for Toddlers

by Kathryn Walsh, studioD

A glass of cool water on a hot day may seem refreshing to you, but getting a toddler to drink enough can be a battle. Water is essential to a toddler's health. It helps waste move through his body correctly, helps him regulate his temperature and even provides lubrication for his joints. Whether it's warm or cold and comes from a bottle or a tap, toddlers must drink plenty of water every day.

Recommended Daily Intake

You may have heard that it's recommended that adults drink eight full glasses of water a day, but since toddlers are far smaller than adults, they require much less liquid each day. The Institute of Medicine recommends that children between the ages of 1 and 3 drink 1.3 liters of water or other liquids each day. This is equivalent to five or six cups. It doesn't matter whether a toddler sips on a cup of water throughout the day or drinks the majority of her liquids during meal time.

Liquid Sources

A plain glass of water is the easiest way for toddlers to get hydration, but picky toddlers may turn up their noses at water. Plenty of other drinks and foods contain enough water to help keep your toddler hydrated. Juice and milk can also be healthy sources of hydration, as long as you buy juice that's made from 100 percent fruit and she drinks water as well. Foods like soup and salads made from iceberg lettuce also include water that can be counted toward a child's daily liquid intake. Make the salads more appealing to your child with a creamy dressing.

Getting Her to Drink

Knowing how much liquid a toddler should be getting is one thing, but getting her to drink enough is another. Toddlers may get too distracted by playing to ask for drinks until they're already thirsty, by which time they may be slightly dehydrated. Make a habit of offering your child a drink once an hour, and make water more appealing by letting her pick out a new sippy cup at the store. If she absolutely refuses to drink plain water, fill a half cup of fruit juice the rest of the way with water. She'll be drinking healthfully without even realizing it.


Since toddlers don't require as much liquid as adults, they can become dehydrated quickly. Dehydration is a serious medical problem, so it's important to be on the lookout for symptoms if you fear your toddler isn't drinking enough. A dehydrated child may be listless, dizzy, weak or develop a headache and dry mouth. Some toddlers aren't able to verbalize when something feels wrong, making it all the more important to keep them from getting dehydrated in the first place. If you suspect your child is dehydrated, watch over her while she drinks a cup or two of water. Call her pediatrician if her symptoms worsen.

About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

Photo Credits

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