So tell me this now – you look around at our beautiful children and you see that 4:5 are obese, cannot run 3K, resist going for a long walk around town or forest, lose their breath quickly etc. Not mentioning so many kids these days have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), Autism and so on, all of which are brain disorders because their little brain is dehydrated.
So what is happening? Can you see the pattern? When I was a child I used to run around all day long! Walk to school, go to a forest and collect berries, mushrooms and so on. Yes, maybe these things were only happening in my country, but do you see the pattern? We used to drive less, walk more, play outside from early morning to late night and watch TV only one cartoon before the bedtime. Not mentioning all the errands, we had to run around the house and outside. Were we sick? Sure we were, but not as often. Did we get tired? Of course, we did, but we ran and ran all day, played outside even needed to walk long distances to visit a best friend. We did get tired, but sat down (without moaning) for 2 minutes, catch the breath and run again!
So what’s changed now? So many things and let’s not blame the technologies alone. The initial problem is nutrition, hydration and physical activity. Once again – not sure how was it like in Ireland 20-30 years ago, but I know I didn’t have access to soft drinks, juices or cordials. So we would drink water or milk. And that was it. Fewer options, healthier options and healthier kids. And when I talk to mothers today, they always tend to say that their kids do not LIKE water. And why is that? Did we give them a chance? Wild guess – maybe because they never tasted water properly! We add some cordial; we mix in some concentrated sweetened juice and load our kids with sugar! I’m not trying to be dramatic now and point out that everyone is doing wrong. Guess what? I was doing the same. I was putting in some cordial in my kids’ water – well, just a tiny bit to make it sweeter… Tiny not tiny – still full of sugar and kids get the sweet tooth before they even get a chance to try something less sugary, more natural and of the full taste.
According to doctors, dehydration, even mild one, can cause tiredness, reduced mental performance, lack of concentration and dry skin. Studies suggest that children’s mental performance can be improved when they are given access to water. In one study, 58 children aged 7 to 9 years were divided into two groups; one group followed their normal drinking habits, while the other was offered extra water (250ml). The results showed that children provided with extra water reported less thirst and performed better when visual attention tasks were carried out (Edmonds CJ & Burford D (2009). Once again going back to the point about ADD and how can we help to avoid it. So that was a big eye-opener for me and I decided to train my kids to drink water. My 11-year-old daughter also has eczema, therefore, water intake is very important to her, but she wasn’t keen on drinking water. So then I came up with a water challenge for my guys.
My son LOVES challenges and he is so competitive I was pretty certain it’s going to work! I printed these lovely water challenge sheets and set up goals and small prizes for each time reaching small goals. The first week was great and we went for a treat and got some milkshakes. So yes, we can give a treat for our kids from time to time, but teach them good habits first and a treat should be a treat – once a week or when rewarded, but not on the daily basis! I made it fun, created a game and the water challenge worked for us. My kids are so used to drinking water now they don’t look for sweeteners. And yet I still have to run after them with a glass of water to make sure they get their daily intake! And so what! It is our job to teach them good habits. It’s our job to follow them around and check on from time to time. And for that reason, I think it’s working. Small change, big difference.
Edmonds CJ & Burford D (2009) Should children drink more water?: The effects of drinking water on cognition in children. Appetite 52(3), 776-9.