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Encouraging Water Intake in Kids

By Erica Mitchell, PT, DPT

Dehydration can be a common problem in kids and slowing them down long enough to drink can be a challenge for parents. Keeping children hydrated is important to prevent constipation, UTIs, and kidney infections as well as keeping their body temperature regulated with activity. Children should generally drink half their body weight in ounces of mostly water per day, just like adults!

How can I encourage my child to drink water?

  • Mix up the cup! New or different cups, or even a “grown up” cup, can encourage children to drink because it makes it more fun!
  • Give fruits and vegetables high in water content.
  • Reward! Make a sticker chart or game out of it.

What are signs my child isn’t getting enough water?

  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • General sleepiness/malaise

While juice, sodas, milk, etc all have water content, we really want a majority of liquid intake during the day to be plain water. If your child refuses plain water, dry diluting a fruit juice to at least 50% water.

It is common for children (and adults) to drink less water in the cooler months where we don’t feel as thirsty or dehydrated. When it is hot outside, we sweat and often feel the need to drink more water. Despite less overt signals from our bodies, we still need the same amount of fluid intake in the cooler months as well!

Can dehydration cause bladder problems in my child?

Absolutely! It may be an instinct if your child is having bladder accidents or urinary frequency to decrease their fluid intake. While that seems logical, it can actually make those problems worse! Dehydration will lead to irritation of the bladder wall lining and can lead to false signals of voiding or ignoring the signal to void causing bladder accidents.

How does dehydration cause constipation?

Sufficient water aids in keeping stool soft and moving through the bowels. Signs of dehydration causing constipation can be pebble-like stools, flaky pieces in underwear, straining with bowel movements, and abdominal discomfort.

What can I do if my child continues to show signs of constipation or urinary irritation despite increased fluid intake?

See a pelvic floor physical therapist! A pelvic floor physical therapist with experience in pediatrics can help in identifying and treating the underlying causes of your child’s bladder and bowel dysfunction. A whole body approach with the parent/guardian and child combined can be a game-changer in your child’s bladder and bowel habits!


Dr. Erica Mitchell has extensive training in the treatment of Pediatric and Adult Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. Find her at Magic City Physical Therapy in Hoover, Alabama!

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