Over 60% of parents across the UK say their child’s school does not provide water throughout the day, according to new research.
The survey of more than 1,000 parents of 4-10 year-olds in the UK by the Natural Hydration Council found that 64% of parents say that water is banned from classrooms and 73% say there is no access to water via water fountains.
Access to fresh drinking water at all times
Department of Education state that the Local Authority or governing body must ensure that pupils have easy access at all times to free, fresh drinking water on school premises but the NHC believe this isn't the case in many areas.
Nutritionist and advisor to the NHC, Dr Emma Derbyshire, said: "It is concerning that so many parents have said they don’t think their children are drinking enough fluid throughout the day and I hope that parents and schools can find a good solution to this problem.
"It was reassuring to learn that 80% of parents said they would like their children to drink more water, as this is the ideal choice for regular hydration as it contains zero sugar, calories, preservatives or additives."
Tiredness and irritability
The majority of parents also said that their children are thirsty when they get home from school (69%), and almost half of parents (43%) regularly notice other signs of dehydration in their children, including tiredness and irritability.
Whilst 91% of parents accept chief responsibility for their children’s hydration habits, almost two thirds (63%) didn’t know how much fluid their child should be drinking and a quarter (25%) of them are not giving their children a drink to take to school.
Low water consumption across all ages
Further academic research of 1,456 children and adults in the UK, published in Nutrition Today, found that more than half of 4 –18 year olds’ fluid consumption was below the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommendations.
Author Joan Gandy a dietetic consultant and JFHC Live 2013 speaker, also said that “water consumption was low for all age groups of children” and on average, children were consuming at least 175 kcal per day from soft drinks.
Consumed in moderation
The research by the NHC also showed that parents considered smoothies as a “healthy” option for their children to drink throughout the day (85%) with almost all saying that fizzy drinks are “unhealthy” (99%).
Dr Derbyshire added: "Fruit juice should be consumed in moderation and smoothies should really only be drunk once a day. It’s important to note that these drinks are perfectly healthy in moderation, but that water and milk are the best drinks recommended for regular consumption with children this age."
Top tips on staying hydrated
The NHC has provided some tips for parents on how to encourage children to drink more water and stay hydrated throughout the day:
1. Children often copy parents’ behaviour and habits, so try to get into the habit of drinking more water in front of your child(ren)
2. Always offer water at mealtimes – apart from anything else it will help those vegetables taste less bitter if children are drinking something plain, rather than sweet
3. Put a bottle of water in lunchboxes to encourage children to drink at lunch time
4. Don’t overlook the need to give your child(ren) a drink at breakfast so they start the day well hydrated. Water is best as it contains zero sugar, calories, preservatives or additives
5. Offer younger children drinks on a regular basis and actively encourage consumption
Aimed at informing both parents and children on healthy hydration guidelines, a ‘Children’s Hydration Glass’ was developed last year by the NHC in collaboration with the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF). The infographic includes hydration guidance as well as advice on fluid consumption for children, and is available to download from www.naturalhydrationcouncil.org.uk.