Do Children Need Water Breaks at School?

By David B. Ryan
Kids need the same amount of water as adults each day.
Kids need the same amount of water as adults each day.

Water makes up more than half of your child's body, and it helps keep kids functioning at top form. Children become dehydrated without water, which causes mild problems, such as irritability, but a major lack of water can also create serious health issues. School playtime makes your child sweat, and school water breaks help replace that lost fluid. The body also uses water during warm weather and dry winter days to keep soft tissue, such as the tissues in the eyes, moist. Your child needs several water breaks each school day to replace the water lost in normal body functions.

Life Water

Kids need water for normal brain function and to concentrate on schoolwork, and frequent water breaks during the school day help rehydrate the body. Water is the fluid for life, and soft drinks and juice can't replace the clear fluid the body needs. One way to tell whether your child has enough water during the day is to ask him for the number of bathroom visits he makes during the school day. Hydrated kids need a bathroom break every few hours, according to Michael Farrell, chief of staff at Children's Hospital Medical Center of Cincinnati. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that children who rarely report taking a bathroom break at school typically have problems with dehydration.

Active Kids

Children need a quart of water for every 1,000 calories burned during the day. Joel Steinberg, pediatrics professor at Dallas University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, tells "Parents" magazine that adults can trust kids to drink enough water to replace lost fluid, and there isn't any need to measure the amount of water consumed each day at school. Children need easy access, however, to classroom water faucets or water fountains on the school grounds.

Dehydration Dangers

Recess play creates loads of sweat, and children can quickly become dehydrated. This risks heat exhaustion and heatstroke, serious conditions where the body can't regulate the internal temperature. When the body loses necessary water, children can feel anxious or overly tired and experience drenching sweats. Risks are higher for dehydration on hot days, but children can become dehydrated during any type of weather. Regular water breaks remind kids to drink water as a regular part of recess and formal exercise activities.

Good Practices

Good school and parent practices make sure your child always has access to water. Pack water with your child's lunch or make a water snack pack that avoids sugary drinks and soda. Formal school programs frequently ask teachers to give kids water at designated times during the day, such as after physical education class. Most elementary teachers regularly ask children to line up at the school drinking fountain to rehydrate after lunch or recess, but not all schools make overt efforts to promote water breaks. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends children drink eight to 16 gulps of water before starting play, eight more gulps for every 15 to 20 minutes of play and 32 gulps after play to keep the body hydrated. A mouthful of water qualifies as a gulp.

About the Author

David B. Ryan has been a professional writer since 1989. His work includes various books, articles for "The Plain Dealer" in Cleveland and essays for Oxford University Press. Ryan holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Indiana University and certifications in emergency management and health disaster response.