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10 tips for getting kids to drink water in toddlerhood and beyond, from a parent who’s been there

Toddlers aged between 1 and 3 should drink about 4 cups a day—and as kids get older, they should drink even more. Feel like you’re already off to a rough start? You’re not alone! Like anything else that your child really should do (like eating vegetables, using the potty, or simply putting on shoes to get out the door) getting toddlers to drink more water can be a challenge.


So, let’s get this out of the way first: you aren’t a bad parent if your kid isn’t drinking enough water. But there are a few strategies that can help. 

10 tips for getting toddlers to drink more water 

My daughter is almost three, and I can mostly say drinking water is a regular part of our routine.

My little and me!

Of course, she's still a toddler (and apple juice is still just way more exciting). But a combination of these tips and tricks worked for me: 

1. start young 

Water can safely be introduced to infants as early as six months, around the time they start sitting independently and trying solids. Before they turn one, they should only have between 4 and 8oz per day, which makes a great time to experiment with no pressure (they get most of their hydration from breastmilk or formula!). 

We began introducing small amounts of water in an open cup or 360 cup. By the time my daughter started to develop those strong opinions, drinking water was a normal part of mealtimes. So, if you have the luxury of reading this article ahead of time, plan to start young!

  • Read more: How to transition from a bottle to a cup 

  • If you’re joining us here a little later in your child’s journey, the rest of these tips should work for you.

    2. take a look at your own hydration habits

    In other words, model the behavior you want to see. This may take some conscious effort if you’ve been living off iced coffee and diet coke (and no shame—I get it). But it’s hard to tell your kids they should drink water when they never see you do it. 

    I try to opt for water at most meals, and I keep my water bottle with me throughout the day.

    3. speak positively about why we drink water 

    “Wow, we’ve been playing so much! My body needs water!” 

    “Water always makes me feel so much better.” 

    “I’m feeling a little tired—I must need water.” 

    Taking a water break! Credit: @trudi_eade

    Whenever possible, I try to narrate the act of drinking water and the why behind it. Sometimes, my daughter will mimic me. Plus, it helps her learn why hydration is important!

    4. make water fun with a habit tracker

    For older toddlers and kids, try making a chart with space for them to track each cup of water they drink (for example, I’d have space for four cups of water each day for a three-year-old). Let them place a sticker or color in the grid as they drink. At the end of the week, consider celebrating progress with a small reward or special time together. 

    Bonus: This honestly works for the grown-ups trying to hydrate more, too!

    5. serve water with snacks and meals 

    This might be my simplest, most impactful tip. 

    From the get-go, serve a cup of water with snacks and meals. This helps establish the habit and sends the message that water is what’s served. 

    My own daughter with her snack and water!

  • Not sure what cup to serve a young toddler? Read more about how to use a 360 cup

  • Setting up this routine may be more difficult if you’ve been serving juice or milk. In that case, I’d recommend starting with snacks and using this script: “We’re having water with snacks, but you can pick a juice for dinner”... and stick to it! 

    6. make water taste better 

    Let’s be honest… when apple juice is on the table (sometimes literally), it’s no wonder water doesn't seem appealing. While it’s not always practical to flavor water, you can use fruits or even certain vegetables to jumpstart your hydration goals. 

    Try infusing your water with:

    • Strawberries 
    • Lemons
    • Raspberries
    • Cucumbers
    • Limes
    • Peaches
    • Plums
    • Apples

    Or check out infused water recipes online to make something extra special! 

    7. set up a water station

    Kids love to do things independently. Help them take charge of their own hydration by setting up a water station that’s easy for them to access. 

    You can make this a bit fancy, with a water cooler, fun cups, and fruit. 

    Or you might be a bit more on my speed—we placed the toddler tower near the refrigerator’s water dispenser, and we taught her how to fill up her cup or water bottle. 

    8. offer ice

    Just like we often enjoy our drinks served in certain ways, kids may also develop these preferences. Older children may prefer ice in their water. 

    If you’re feeling ambitious, you can get fun ice molds to make water even more appealing. 

    9. carry water on-the-go

    You know what helps me hydrate? Carrying water with me to work, on errands, and, well… everywhere. The same thing helps our kids! 

    Water is always a necessity on an outdoor adventure. Credit: @latishatankard

    Keep a kid’s water bottle in your go-bag so that’s always on hand. Plus, you won’t be tempted to stop and grab a juice (or even a plastic water bottle) if your child starts complaining about thirst. 

    10. let your child choose their own water bottle

    While we’re at it, let your child choose the water bottle they take on the go. With all kinds of colors and styles to choose from, they’re bound to find something they get excited about. Look for brands that are BPA and phthalate-free, leakproof, and easy for your child to use by themselves. 

    Pro tip: Consider buying a water bottle that looks similar to your child’s water bottle, so that you “match” (as long as your child is still at an age where this is considered fun and cool). for kids makes dishwasher safe, double insulated water bottles that keep water cold for up to 8 hours. Kids can pop the lid open by themselves and the angled straw helps young water drinkers.

    what NOT to do 

    There’s one thing you shouldn’t do if you want your kid to drink more water: put pressure on the situation. The more you stress and demand, the less likely you are to achieve any kind of success. Play it cool, make it fun, and breathe. It takes time for kids to learn–you aren’t behind! 

    meet for kids for kids originated in Australia, where they built a loyal base of mom-fans. Now, you can buy their lunch and hydration products in the U.S. They always have the extra thing parents are looking for—like the angled straw in the water bottles. Shop their hydration line by clicking below.

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