The Daily Essential Kids Aren't Getting Enough Of

Kids need to drink water.Many parents find that they have difficulty convincing their children to consume one of life's most basic essentials: water.

Though of course, it's not that kids truly hate water. No thirsty person hates water. It's that kids much prefer drinking juice, sports drinks or even soda.

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"I stupidly went down the juice-as-a-main-beverage path," one L.A.-based mother of a two-year-old told Yahoo! Shine, "and now C. thinks water is the devil's juice."

"Especially when my children were little, they never wanted to drink water," mom and blogger Lisa Cain of Snack Girl told Yahoo! Shine. "And you're watching your kid running around thinking, 'They're thirsty, they need something to drink!' And they're so headstrong at that age. So you give them juice."

"One of the biggest challenges parents face is trying to get kids to drink water early on," says Dr. TJ Gold, a pediatrician at New York City based Tribeca Pediatrics.

Juice, sports drinks or sodas generally taste better and are more interesting and appealing to children than water, so that's what the kids insist on drinking, and parents cave in.

Kids, however, need plain, old-fashioned water. "With rates of childhood obesity at an all-time high, kids not drinking enough water is a definite concern," says Angela Lemond, a dietician and spokeswoman for Eat Right, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Kids get thirsty, they're going to drink something. And if it's not water, it's usually a sugar-sweetened beverage. These--including most fruit juices--are a major source of calories and have been proven to contribute to obesity in teens. Even 100 percent juice is packed with natural sugars and calories and should be avoided except as a treat, pediatricians and health experts say.

So, how much water is enough, and how can parents convince their kids to drink it?

Pediatrician Gold says that as a rule of thumb, children should be drinking an ounce of water per pound of body-weight per day. For a 40-pound child, that's 5 glasses of water a day (which, if you're a parent of a small child, you probably realize is wildly optimistic).

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Children under 1 year of age should primarily be drinking milk, and some nutritionists say that children under one don't need water at all. However, Gold says that starting to introduce water in a special, designated sippy cup at the same time solid food is introduced will get kids used to the healthy habit. And watering down juice isn't the answer. "Parents promise, 'It's just a splash of juice in the water, they'll drink so much more that way," says Gold. "But the next time you see them, it's a lot more than a splash."

When kids don't get enough water, Gold says, it affects how much they sweat, and also their digestion. Kids who aren't drinking enough are more likely to be constipated. Gold says that mild dehydration also causes behavior changes. If you notice that your child is dizzy, tired and slow to respond, they probably need something to drink.

Still, Gold says, the real problem with children drinking water-substitutes instead of water is obesity. "The obesity epidemic with children in unbelievable. One of the first things we remove is the senseless calories with juice. It's the juice-box generation and it's really frustrating for me."

If you already have a water-loathing, juice-addicted kid, try transitioning them slowly by adding water to their juice to dilute it, ultimately working toward eliminating juice from their diet. You could also add slices of fresh fruit, like strawberries or cantaloupe, to give a glass of water a refreshing taste. Check out some of the tips here from Shine content partner SparkPeople.

More on Shine:

How much water do we really need to drink?
Are juice cleanses killing you?
Healthy snacks to pack for your next family road trip

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