Ask the Expert: How can I encourage my children to drink more water?

Parents' drinking habits influence what their children drink – so you know what to do, mums and dads...

Q: "I encourage my children to drink plenty of water, but they always ask for juice and fizzy drinks – how can I encourage them to want more water?"

A: Public health nutritionist Dr Emma Derbyshire says: "Parents can encourage children to drink more water by drinking more themselves. Children 'parrot' what parents do and establish healthy beverage behaviours from an early age.

"To encourage healthy hydration habits, we need to express pleasure in what we eat and drink, including drinking water, while toning this down for less healthy things. Even if a child says no to drinking water, keep reintroducing it – a process known as repeated exposures – until it becomes accepted.

"Reintroduce water in a variety of ways – different cups/beakers/water carriers with shaped ice cubes, a coloured or curly straw, slice of cucumber or fruit-infused ice cubes, can all improve acceptance. Sticker reward charts can also be fun and motivating. The main thing is to not give up and to be seen drinking and enjoying water in front of your children.

"A survey commissioned by the Natural Hydration Council of children aged 4-8 years showed that parents significantly influence what their children drink. Children living with parents who drank fizzy drinks often were almost three times more likely to drink fizzy drinks themselves.

"While 63 per cent of the children surveyed drank water on any given day, the parental influence impacted their overall consumption, with a rise to 87 per cent in households where parents drink water often. This demonstrates the potential for parents to positively influence healthy hydration habits."

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