When a short attention span is causing trouble, it might be time to look beyond hunger distractions. Clean drinking water matters just as much as a good breakfast. Our kids need both to really tackle each day with confidence.
Child Attention Span and Hydration
There are lots of studies that show how drinking water can help with our productivity and mood. So it’s no surprise that hydration may be impacting our children’s performance and attention span at school. In fact, four intervention trials have found that increasing water consumption also improved children’s cognition.
Another study took a look at exam results for university students. Evidently those who brought water with them into the exam room could improve their grades by 10%. One researcher suggested that drinking water might have a physiological effect. This could extend to anxiety relief, which is especially useful for test-taking!
Still other research has looked specifically at sustained attention for younger students. This is perhaps the most intriguing for elementary-school children. A sustained attention task, such as letter cancelation (i.e., searching within a grid for a targeted letter), continues to show improvement with water consumption. One study also found that drinking water gave a boost to other visual attention tasks, as well. It appears that even mild dehydration affects cognitive performance and attention span for elementary school students.
While plenty of fruits and vegetables have high water content, the types of beverages we drink are what really keep us hydrated. For younger kids, this comes down to milk or water. Naturally, this varies by age. Five-year-olds might be fine drinking 5 cups of water a day, whereas a 13-year-old would do better with 8 cups, which is the same recommendation for adults.
School Drinking Water Safety
Drinking water during the day can surely have benefits for students’ focus and mood. But encouraging children to sip on more water is a team effort for school communities. The National Drinking Water Alliance has a few suggestions for how to make drinking water a priority. First, we have to check that there are working fountains around the campus, especially during meal time. This can help boost their attention span for every class.
We also need to ask our school administrators whether they have made sure that the drinking water is safe. This is one of the biggest concerns for our families today. Lead in drinking water can have devastating effects on a child’s development. Having the right systems in place to protect students is of the utmost importance. There’s no reason for our kids to drink contaminated water. There are plenty of safe fountains and bottle fillers available today that can filter water and keep it clean.
Lastly, schools can continue work to promote drinking water as a healthy, everyday habits. Creating posters and art in the classroom can help students become drinking water advocates. Keeping a reusable water on hand can help remind students to stay hydrated all throughout the day. They can then fill up their own bottle at a filtered drinking water fountain during lunch and class breaks. That way, they’ll stay safe and hydrated—and focused!