During term time children spend most of their days at school – and with a full schedule of lessons and breaks, many do not drink enough to stay fully hydrated. In fact, studies show that UK school children drink just a quarter of the water they need during the school day.
Young children have a higher proportion of water in their bodies than adults – and are therefore more likely to become dehydrated. Dehydration can cause an array of cognitive and behavioural problems which can impact students’ ability to learn, giving schools an incentive to encourage positive water drinking habits.
What impact does hydration have on learning and behaviour?
According to reports, if students’ water levels reduce by just 2%, their performance at school can drop significantly, and schools that encourage their children to keep hydrated show a marked improvement in learning capabilities.
How can drinking water improve students’ learning and behaviour?
Not only does drinking water ensure a healthy body and mind, but it can directly be linked to improving students’ ability to learn. Below are more ways in which water can improve students’ performance at school.
1. Improve concentration and attention span
Studies show that drinking water throughout the day can significantly improve concentration and attention spans in students.
Water transports oxygen to your brain, which allows it to communicate with the rest of the body. Since the brain is 75% water, and even the smallest drop in water levels has the ability to impair concentration and cognitive function in the brain.
Drinking water regularly ensures the brain maintains its function and students can focus on their work.
2. Improve short term memory and ability to learn
Water levels influence short term memory and the ability to retain information, a vital aspect of learning.
According to a study which compared a group of students taking a test, allowing half of the group to drink water throughout and the other half not, the results found that those who were not allowed to drink water found the test considerably harder than those who were, and they performed worse than their hydrated counterparts too.
As a result, keeping hydrated helps students to retain and process information, enabling them to perform better in tests.
3. Improve behaviour
Dehydration can present itself in many forms, including irritability and distractedness. This can not only affect students’ ability to learn but can also disrupt classes and provoke bad behaviour.
Keeping hydrated reduces classroom disruption and enable teachers to teach and students to learn.
4. Reduce health issues which lead to distractions
Did you know that drinking water can alleviate growing pains, allergies and asthma symptoms?
Studies have shown that keeping hydrated is proven to help reduce or prevent flare ups of these conditions, therefore taking away distracting and debilitating factors that could inhibit performance and enabling students to be present in class.
How can schools promote healthy drinking habits?
Water is essential to ensuring students are able to learn and behave in the classroom, and schools can take the following steps to promote water drinking amongst their students:
1. School water fountains
Water fountains are an easy and effective way to ensure access to water and promote drinking water in kids. It is not enough to have one water fountain hidden away in a corner, water fountains must be supplied throughout the school and in clear sight to remind students to fill up and keep hydrated.
Cactus Water Systems provides a selection of easy-to-install water fountains ideal for educational environments, as well as servicing options to ensure the health of the fountain.
2. Reusable bottles
Teachers can encourage students to carry reusable water bottles around to refill. Having a bottle to hand will greatly increase the frequency and capacity to drink water.
3. Creating a positive water drinking culture
It’s not unheard of for teachers to deny students’ requests to get a drink during lessons. In order to create a healthy approach to water, teachers could modify their rules to allow their students to refill their bottles during lessons.
If this is not possible during a lesson, teachers should remind students to fill up their bottles before their lesson so as to ensure access to water throughout. Teachers can also prompt the class to have a drink of water when their students arrive – this way it becomes a communal way to promote water drinking.
4. Supply water alternatives like flavoured water
For those who dislike water, provide alternatives at lunchtimes to ensure students are accessing water in some way.
5. Visual prompts
Communicating the benefits of drinking water in the form of visual prompts are a good way of subtly encouraging students to stay hydrated. Making use of informative posters or display boards can be a good way to remind students.
The final word
It’s important to teach students the importance of staying hydrated, as doing so will help to create a productive and healthy environment conducive to learning.
Since they spend so much time at school, students can learn healthy habits not only to benefit their fundamental health, but to improve their overall performance and capacity to learn – and what teacher doesn’t want that!