Drinking water is important for learning

June 12, 2013 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years

Did you know more than half the human body is made up of water? It’s true. Water is inside every cell and organ – including our lungs (83 percent), the brain and heart (73 percent), even our seemingly dry bones (31 percent).

And it doesn’t just sit there, like water in a pool. It performs vital bodily functions, like regulating our internal body temperatures; carrying oxygen, nutrients and waste into and out of our cells; lubricating joints; keeping ear, nose and throat tissues moist; and providing a protective watery cocoon for our brain, spinal cord and, in the case of expectant mothers, unborn fetuses.

No wonder we wilt like neglected houseplants when we don’t get enough to drink!

While adequate water consumption is important at any age, it’s even more essential for still-developing children. Recent scientific studies have found even mild dehydration can negatively affect children’s cognitive function.

So how much is enough?

While conventional wisdom calls for eight 8-ounce glasses a day, the U.S. Institute of Medicine recommends specific amounts based on a child’s age and gender. For males, the daily recommendation is: ages 4-8, 40-48 oz.; ages 9-13, 52-64 oz.; ages 14-18, 72-88 oz. For females, the daily recommendation is: ages 4-8, 40-48 oz.; ages 9-13, 44-56 oz.; ages 14-18, 52-60 oz.

Those are the guidelines but, sadly, most children aren’t meeting them.

A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found less than 35 percent of the school-aged children in the study consumed adequate amounts of water for their age groups. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study published in 2011, children ages 6-11 drink an average of less than two cups (16 ounces) of water per day – only a third of the recommended amount.

You can lead a child to water, but how do you make him drink?

Water is by far the number one hydration option. But for parents with kids who turn up their noses at good ol’ H20, there are other options.

  • Make water more interesting by adding a dash of juice.
  • Let them have juice, but dilute it with water to cut down on the sugar.
  • Shake up the routine by pouring the water and/or juice into a fun, new cup or water bottle.
  • How about a bendy straw?
  • No dice with cups and straws? Try popsicles, preferably made with fruit juice and water.
  • Bubbles to the rescue: Fizz things up by opting for seltzer instead of water.
  • Watermelon, anyone? Many foods, such as soup, fruit, and milk, contain 80 to 90 percent water.

For more reading on this topic, check out:

Sports Dehydration Safety Tips from Safe Kids Worldwide.

Water: Meeting Your Daily Hydration Needs,” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Water in Diet, from Medline Plus.