It may have been one of the rainiest weeks we’ve seen in a long time, but it seems there’s one place where children are in need of much more water: on the breakfast table.
Findings from researchers at Sheffield University’s Medical School suggest that almost two thirds of children aren’t having enough to drink before school to be properly hydrated.
That’s a big concern – not just because we all need to be well hydrated for our bodies to work correctly and for good health, but also because studies have shown that children perform better in class after having a drink. Researchers found their memory and focus improved afterwards, so it’s serious food (or drink!) for thought.
My top tips on hydration for children:
- They generally need around 6-8 glasses (that’s around 1.2 litres) of fluid every day. They might need more if it’s warm, or if they’re taking part in physical activity
- When children are dehydrated they’re likely to complain of a headache, or seem generally out of sorts. A glass of water or another healthy drink is always a good place to start to make them feel better!
- Water should be your first choice of drink for children, and it’s all our bodies need to stay hydrated. But other drinks can also help get children towards their recommended amount of fluids each day
- The school food standards require that there’s free, fresh drinking water available for pupils at all times at school. Children need to be able to get to this easily – you might put water fountains or coolers and cups in the dining room or around the school, or water jugs on tables in the dining room
- You might also let pupils take bottles of water into lessons so they can sip throughout the day
- Schools don’t have to provide other types of drinks at all if they don’t want to. If you do, you must follow the food-based standard for healthier drinks. This means drinks which hydrate pupils but also provide a nutritional benefit (like milk, which is a source of calcium)
- We also encourage schools to sign up to our Voluntary Code of Practice for drinks. This means you’re providing healthier drinks that are unsweetened and free from additives wherever possible.
If you want more information on the research I’ve cited above, check out: Benton D. Dehydration influences mood and cognition: a plausible hypothesis? Nutrients 2011 May;3(5):555-73. Epub 2011 May 10.
Edmonds CJ, Burford D. Should children drink more water?: the effects of drinking water on cognition in children. Appetite 2009 Jun;52(3):776-9. Epub 2009 Mar 5.
Laura’s one of our research nutritionists. The team are here to help with your questions about the school food standards, guidelines for food in early years settings, other menus for children and nutrition in little ones. Email Laura here.