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The results of the survey show that when it comes to hydration, when parents choose water and set limits on sugary drinks for their children, kids are more likely to view water more positively and to drink more of it.

A cross-country survey conducted by Nestlé Waters and Ipsos questioned parents and children in Mexico, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and China about drinking habits. The survey aimed to understand the attitudes of parents towards what drinks kids should consume, to assess how knowledgeable they were about what kids were actually drinking, and to figure out how parental attitudes affected their kids’ behaviour.

The study, which was conducted online in September and October 2018, sampled 600 parents with children between 3 and 12 years old, and 200 kids in between 6 and 12 years old, per country.

Parents want their kids to drink water

Across countries, parents are committed to making sure that their children are hydrated in a healthy way. Not only do most parents say that they “make sure [their] child drinks enough water,” (82%) or that they “regularly offer water to [their] child,” (81%). A similar number worldwide report that they are highly informed on what healthy hydration habits look like (80%)—although this number falls for French parents (66%).

Likewise, 85% of parents across countries say that it is important that their child drinks enough water. Even though most of them are not searching for new information about good daily hydration habits, over a third still say they resort to tricks to get their kids to drink more water. For these parents who see water as the healthiest option and are looking for ways to encourage their kids to drink more of it, the study revealed insights that could be very helpful.

child drinking water healthy habit

Kids have more mixed desires

Although overwhelming majorities of kids report hearing regularly from their parents that they should drink more water, 65% of the kids surveyed say they prefer sugary drinks.

And they may have more access to sugary drinks than their parents are aware of: 53% of kids say they have more occasions than usual to have sweet drinks, in part because schools in the US, Mexico, and China are relatively permissive about providing access to these sugary beverages. It is also in part due to parents allowing their children to consume sugary drinks for what they refer to as “special occasions,” which end up being quite frequent in the end, including when it is hot out (34%), at restaurants (32%), and even just on weekends (27%).

However, kids who have a positive view of water are less inclined to want to drink sugary drinks instead of water. The good news is that parents can have an impact on how their kids view water by being role models, and limiting their kids’ opportunities to have sweet beverages.

kids and sugary drinks

Being a role model parent

Parents adopt different tactics around what kinds of drinks they allow their kids to consume, with each one having real differences in outcome! While 2/5 of parents resort to tricks to promote water consumption—like flavouring water with syrups, diluting fruit juice with water, or offering kids fizzy water—there are even more effective ways to influence what kids are drinking. Notably, role modeling and setting limits.

Parents who are permissive, which according to the study are those that tend to agree to allow water to be replaced by sweet beverages and to allow sweet beverages to have a place at the table during meals, for example, tend to have kids that are more likely to ask for and receive sugary drinks (61%). Their kids are also less convinced that sugary drinks are bad for them (70% versus 87%). On the other hand, kids whose parents drink water themselves and set clear limits on the consumption of sugary drinks report enjoying water (78%) more than their peers (68%).

The Limit Setters vs The Permissive Parents

  • - Tends to be older, female, parent of girls.
  • - Committed to healthy habits, drinks water herself.
  • - Offers her kids water more often, sets limits on consumption of sugary drink.
  • - Tends to be a millennial, male, parent of boys, in developing countries, such as China or Mexico.
  • - Drinks sweet beverages himself, more likely to use tricks to encourage water consumption among his kids.
  • - Offers his kids a wider variety of drinks (fruit juice, sweet beverages, flavoured milk).

Promoting healthy hydration: from parents to kids

Even though parents feel generally well informed and prefer water to sugary drinks for their children, a lot of permissiveness and opportunity to drink sweet beverages remains, especially among millennials and fathers. Additionally, parental behaviour towards sugary drinks matters! Children want to do, and do what their moms and dads are modelling for them.

So, in short, even if most people think they have the information they need, additional campaigns can help keep water and healthy drinking habits at the forefront of parents’ minds. This would in turn ultimately have a positive impact in children’s hydration behaviours.