By Raising Children Network
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Young girl drinking water, a healthy drink credit jovanovic
Water is the best drink for children over 12 months. Healthy drinks for kids do not include soft drinks, cordials, fruit juices, vitamin water, flavoured mineral water, energy drinks and sports drinks.

Healthy drinks under six months

Under six months, babies need only breastmilk or infant formula. Breastmilk or formula is food and drink for babies at this age.

Healthy drinks from six months

You can give breastfed and formula-fed babies small amounts of cooled boiled tap water from a cup from six months on. 

Cooled boiled tap water gives your baby extra fluid if she needs it.

Drinking water from a cup – rather than a bottle – helps your child learn how to handle a cup.

Giving your baby drinks other than water, breastmilk or formula in the first 12 months can stop him from getting enough breastmilk or formula.

Healthy drinks at 12 months

At 12 months, you can give your baby pasteurised, unflavoured, full-fat cow’s milk.

Reduced-fat milk isn’t recommended for children under two years. This is because toddlers need fat for growth and energy and they can get this from the fat-soluble vitamins that full-fat milk contains.

You can use full-fat, calcium-fortified soy milk and other plant-based drinks (rice, oat or almond milk) as an alternative to cow’s milk as long as your child eats other food with protein, such as meat, fish, chicken, eggs and legumes.

And breastfeeding can continue after 12 months, for as long as it suits you and your child.

Healthy drinks for toddlers, preschoolers and older children

For toddlers and older children, milk and tap water are still the best drinks.

When your child drinks plenty of water regularly throughout the day, she stays hydrated. This is especially important in hot weather or when your child is running around a lot. Drinking plenty of water can also help her avoid constipation.

Here are some tips to encourage your child to drink and enjoy water:

  • Get everyone in the family drinking water as their main drink. When your children see you doing it, they’re likely to do it too.
  • Make water easily available by giving younger children water bottles at home and showing older children how to get their own water from the tap.
  • Have water on the table at meal and snack times.
  • Keep chilled water in a jug in the fridge. You could try adding slices of lemon or orange or a sprig of mint for interest.
  • In summer, freeze small pieces of chopped fruit in ice blocks and add these to water at snack and mealtimes.
  • Try a water filter if your child doesn’t like the taste of your local tap water.
  • Take filled water bottles when you go out with your child.

Unhealthy drinks: fruit juice

Fruit juices have high levels of sugar and acid and don’t have much fibre. Children need fibre and don’t need extra sugar. That’s why it’s better for them to eat fruit, rather than drink juice.

Fruit juice made at home can be an occasional healthy treat for your child .

It’s a good idea to mix the fruit juice with some water or ice, and even sneak in a few vegetables. Mixing the fruit in a blender instead of a juicer will keep in the fibre from the fruit.
It’s best for children to eat whole fruit and drink plain tap water or milk rather than juice. Water is always better than fruit juice, because it satisfies thirst but doesn’t contain sugar.

Unhealthy drinks: soft drinks, cordial, sports drinks, energy drinks

Soft drinks, cordial, sports drinks and energy drinks have lots of sugar and virtually no nutrients. 

They’re not good for children, because they take the place of other more nourishing foods and drinks and can cause weight gain or tooth decay. Many soft drinks also contain caffeine, which could make your child extremely excited, then exhausted.

Flavoured milk and breakfast milk meals like Sanitarium’s Up&Go® are higher in added sugar, so it’s better to offer your children plain milk instead.

Mineral waters and flavoured waters are high in certain minerals that can stress your child’s kidneys. Flavoured varieties are also full of sugar.

Herbal teas are not good for your child. Tea and coffee contain caffeine, which can affect your child’s sleep, behaviour and development.

Video Junk food and soft drinks

In this video, parents let you in on their top tips for avoiding junk food and soft drinks. For example, one mum says that she just doesn’t have soft drinks in the house. Another tells how her children like plain mineral water, which they think is ‘fizzy, exciting, bubble water’.

Other parents share strategies for making a healthy diet part of everyday life. When it comes to junk food, they suggest teaching children to eat it in moderation, rather than denying ‘sometimes food’ altogether.

  • Last updated or reviewed 04-07-2014