Get Up & Grow: Healthy Eating and Physical Activity for Early Childhood - Staff and Carer Book

Healthy Eating Guideline - Provide water in addition to age-appropriate milk drinks.

Page last updated: 25 May 2011

Infants under the age of six months who are not exclusively breastfed can be offered cooled boiled water in addition to infant formula.

Water is essential for many important bodily functions including digestion, absorptioin of nutrients and elimination of waste products. Water accounts for between 50 and 80 per cent of body weight. Young children in particular can become dehydrated quickly and should have access to drinking water at all times.

To stay hydrated, toddlers should be encouraged to drink around 1 litre of fluid a day, and pre-schoolers around 1.2 litres a day.

Babies under six months who are not exclusively breastfed can be offered cooled boiled water. From six to 12 months, cooled boiled water can supplement breastmilk or formula. For children one to five years, water and cow’s milk should be the main drinks offered. Children should have access to drinking water at all times during the day. Where available, offer clean, safe tap water to children – purchasing bottled water is generally not necessary. Plain milk should be offered in a cup with meals and snacks. However, be careful not to offer too much plain milk, especially just before meals, as children can fill up on milk and then not be hungry for meals. At around one year, children need around 500ml of milk each day. Keep in mind that children may also drink some milk at home.

Sweet drinks are not needed as part of a healthy diet. They do not provide much nutrition and children can fill up on them, leaving them with a smaller appetite for other, nutritious foods. Water is the best drink. Sweet drinks may also contribute to tooth decay, and there is a strong link between sweet drinks and excess weight gain in children. Sweet drinks include soft drinks, flavoured mineral water, flavoured milk, cordial, fruit drink and fruit juice. Avoid giving these drinks to children.

Provide water with each meal and snack, and make sure that water is available for children to drink throughout the day. At meal and snack times, put a jug of water or plain milk on each table and encourage older children to pour their own drinks.