*Ice Maker Rattles Again*

How Much Water Does Your Kid Actually Need?

A.k.a. Do I really have to lug a water bottle everywhere I go?

We live in the the Stanley Cup era, a time of trendy stainless steel water bottles and endless sippy cups that we lug everywhere for our children from the moment they’re first allowed to drink water. But how much water do kids really need? Our parents certainly didn’t panic if they left our water bottles at home — if we even had one at all. To find out whether we’re over-hydrating, Romper asked two pediatric health experts whether we modern moms worry too much about water.

Turns out, being mindful of water intake (if not completely obsessed) isn’t a bad thing. “It is definitely something we need to pay attention to,” says Dr. Samantha Dahlberg, D.O., pediatrician at Texas Children’s, who thinks we worry “the right amount.” (She adds that it’s particularly important for any kid who struggles with constipation. “If you have one of those kids who struggles with bowel movements, then it’s really important to have water be a staple of their diet.”)

Like almost anything else with parenting, there’s a sweet spot between “too much” and “not enough”: “I feel like there are some parents that worry way too much about it and their child’s really getting enough, whereas there’s definitely parents that don’t push it enough or don’t consistently give their children the fluids that they need,” says Lindsey Donovan, MS, RDN, a pediatric clinical dietitian at Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville.

So what actually is “just right”?

How much water do kids actually need a day?

The answer depends on how old your child is. Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) has a handy chart on their website where they recommend kids drink one 8-ounce cup of water per day for every year of their age. So, a 1-year-old needs one cup, a 2-year-old needs two cups, and so on. That rule of thumb works until age 9 and up, when eight 8-ounce glasses of water is the standing recommendation.


“For 1 to 2 years old, it’s usually going to be around 32 ounces of fluids a day,” says Donovan. “That’s obviously going to vary. What I usually say is, no one’s going to meet that. That’s just what’s recommended, so if you’re meeting close to that, you’re perfectly fine. For preschool age children, so more like your 3 or 4-year-olds, usually it goes up to about 45 to 50 ounces a day of fluids. That can be from water or milk.”

This differs a bit from CHOC’s recommendation, which is strictly about water intake, but Donovan’s numbers also account for milk and fluids in general.

When it comes to water specifically, Dahlberg’s recommendation match the standard. “You can start water intake at 6 months, and I think actually that surprises most parents to learn that,” she says. “You’ll get somewhere between a half cup to a cup once you hit one. Once you hit two, then thinking about getting two cups. There is obviously some range in there, but that’s sort of a quick and easy way to remember. At 2 to 5 you want to get one to five cups a day.”

School-Age Kids

For kids ages 5 to 8 years old, Donovan recommends around 57 ounces a day of fluids. At age 9, the guidelines differ a bit for boys and girls, she says. “For boys age 9 to 11, about 80 ounces of water a day, which does seem like a lot, so I doubt everyone’s actually meeting that. And for girls 9 to 11, about 70 ounces of water per day for fluids.”

Teenagers & Youth Athletes

As a general rule of thumb for teenagers, Donovan usually recommends half an ounce per pound that they weigh. So, if your child weighs 130 pounds, they should aim to drink 65 ounces of water per day. This can be a helpful metric to use for older kids too, according to CHOC, if shooting for 80 ounces for your 11-year-old is just not realistic.

For kids who play sports, however, it is important to take in some extra water. “During exercise, for ages 9 to 12, you want to be pushing probably three to eight ounces every 20 minutes. Teenagers are going to be about 34 to 50 ounces per hour (that’s 4 to 6 cups). You especially want to be paying attention to keeping them hydrated when they are visibly sweating a lot,” says Donovan.

Should you be supplementing your kid’s water intake with sports drinks too? They need the electrolytes, right? If they’re super active, then yes — but they don’t need a ton. “For youth athletes, I’d stick to one, maximum two per day,” Donovan says. “Look out for the ones that are high in sugar because sometimes they can even cause more dehydration, and a lot of the sports drinks that are high in sugar can cause diarrhea. Pedialyte is usually sugar-free, so that’s always a good option.”

In The Summer Heat

If you’re playing outside on a hot day, be sure to bring plenty to drink for your kids and yourself. “Definitely have more water in the summer. A lot of kids are involved in sports — baseball, soccer, all that where they’re outside. I would say double the amount that you usually take and always have water. Water access is really important,” Dahlberg says.

Most Important: Don’t Stress

If these numbers seem impossibly high, don’t freak — Donovan and Dahlberg both agree that most children probably aren’t drinking this much in a day. If your child is healthy and happy, they’re hydrated enough. Having access to water — which means lugging their water bottle everywhere, yes — is the most important thing you can do to make sure your child is staying hydrated. (And if your kid is a super-drinker and you’re worried they’re going overboard, these recommended amounts probably mean they’re doing just fine as well.)

Want some insight into your child’s hydration? If you don’t want to track their intake throughout the day (or can’t, because they go to daycare or school for the bulk of it), you can take a peek at the color of their urine. “If it’s dark urine, that just means they’re not getting enough fluid and you might need to just push a little bit more throughout the day,” says Donovan. “If it’s super clear all the time, and they’re going a million times a day, they’re probably getting more than they need.”


Dr. Samantha Dahlberg, D.O., pediatrician at Texas Children’s

Lindsey Donovan, MS, RDN, a pediatric clinical dietitian at Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville