How Much Water Do Your Kids Really Need?

By Stephanie Hodges

Traditionally, you’ve heard it said that eight glasses of water is the recommended amount of water you need to drink daily—or maybe that you should drink half of your body weight in ounces per day, but the question remains…How much water do you and your children REALLY need to drink each day?

The answer isn’t quite that easy, and it truly does depend on a variety of factors!

Why Hydration Matters

Hydration is an incredibly important topic as up to 60% of the adult body is made up of water and according to the US National Library of Medicine, over 50% of children ages 6-19 years old in the US are inadequately hydrated. Dehydration can lead to negative health outcomes, such as constipation, which affects up to 30% of children.

When determining how much water you and your children need, you should know that hydration needs vary. Children and adults need more water if they are participating in physical activity or if the weather is hot. You want to replenish any water that you have lost throughout the day which includes sweating, using the restroom, and even breathing!  

You can ensure you and your child are staying hydrated with food and beverages. Typically, when we think of staying hydrated, we immediately think of beverages but about 20% of our water intake actually comes from food and the remaining 80% comes from beverages. Foods like fruits and vegetables like watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, and celery, have high water content and contribute to hydration status.

Recommended Water Intake

Just like recommendations for certain vitamins and minerals, there are broad recommendations for water intake as well. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have set Adequate Intakes (AI), which is the recommended average daily intake level, for water from infancy to older adulthood. It is important to keep in mind these are average recommendations and you may need to increase these amounts to account for physical activity, hot weather and other individualized factors.

  • 4 to 8-year-olds, the AI is 57 oz. (1.7 Liters)
  • 9 to 13-year-old boys, the AI is 81 oz. (2.4 Liters)
  • 9 to 13-year-old girls, the AI is 71 oz. (2.1 Liters)
  • 14 to 18-year-old boys, the AI is 112 oz. (3.3 Liters)
  • 14 to 18-year-old girls, the AI is 78 oz. (2.3 Liters)

You can also check out this water calculator which takes into account gender, age, zip code, current estimated daily fluid intake and activity level. It will tell you if you are meeting daily fluid goal recommendations and it will provide you a goal range in ounces of what you should be consuming.

Whether you are meeting the recommendations or there is room for improvement, we can all strive to drink more water every day to ensure we are staying hydrated!

Stephanie Hodges (MS, MPH, RDN) is the founder of The Nourished Principles, a public health and nutrition consulting business that provides services to clients to improve the nutrition and health status of individuals and populations.

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