How Much Fluids Should a Toddler Drink?

When a baby turns one, parents are often focused on what foods their new toddler is eating. There may have been previously so much focus on how much formula or breastmilk your baby was drinking, but I find when babies turn one, fluid is often not much of a focus. And typically families fall into one of two boats, either a toddler has stopped drinking formula or breastfeeding and is hardly drinking anything or they walk around all day with a sippy cup filling up on liquids. There really is a sweet spot of fluids a toddler needs, not too much or not too little. I am going to tell you just how much your little one needs and how best to meet their fluid needs.

Why Toddlers Need Fluids

There are several reasons toddlers need enough fluid. Many of our bodies’ functions need fluids from protecting tissues to lubricating joints, but there are a few reasons I find particularly important for toddlers.


Toddlers are very active and can be at risk for dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include: irritability or fussiness, flushed skin, dry lips, low energy and less urination or dark-colored urine.


Toddlers can be prone to constipation. And when toddlers are constipated it can interfere with them wanting to eat, so avoiding constipation can be beneficial not just due to the discomfort of it, but also to promote good nutrition. Water, especially, can help with digestion.


Toddlers still need a significant amount of calories, protein, and fat for growth and development, not to mention essential nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, potassium and Vitamin D. With the amount they need, these nutrients are often most easily met with milk. 

How Much Fluid Do Toddlers Need?

Numbers for hydration vary, especially with variations in activity level, but here are some rough guidelines:

  • Toddlers 12- 24 months should drink 3-5 cups of fluids
  • Children 2-5 years old should drink 4-7 cups of fluids
  • These fluids should primarily be water and milk to address the main needs for fluids as discussed above.

How much milk should my toddler drink?

In between their first and second birthdays, toddlers should aim to drink about 2 cups (or 16 ounces) of whole milk each day, and no more than 3 cups per day.  At this age, children need extra fat in their diet to support their growing bodies and brains.

Between the ages of 2 and 5, tots should drink about 2 to 2.5 cups of milk per day, and most should make the switch to reduced fat or low fat milk.
If your child has a dairy allergy or milk intolerance, you can give a milk alternative instead. Soy is the best option as the nutrients most closely resemble milk. The next best choice is pea. Almond, cashew, rice, oat and hemp have significantly less protein and fat making them not a great substitute for a toddler. It’s fine for your toddler to drink these, but to keep in mind, that your toddler may not be getting proper nutrition if they either aren’t drinking cow’s or soy milk or making up nutrients elsewhere in their diet.
Toddlers can, however, drink too much milk. Toddlers who drink a lot of milk may be filling up on liquids and not eating enough solid foods — and that can cause them to miss out on important nutrients such as iron. Not getting enough iron can cause learning and behavioral problems, and can also lead to iron-deficiency anemia (a lack of red blood cells). So really the max a toddler or preschooler should drink is 3 cups per day.

How much water should my toddler drink?

Starting at age 1, children should have about 1 to 3 cups of water daily. After their second birthday, toddlers should drink 2 to 5 cups of water daily.

Plain water is best when your child is thirsty, especially if he needs something to drink in between meals. Not only is water easier on your child’s tummy and teeth than juice and other beverages, but by helping him develop a taste for it now, you’ll set up healthy habits for life.

How much juice or other liquids should my toddler drink?

Water and milk are the preferred liquids for toddlers to drink. However as soon as  toddlers learn to talk and start to try sweeter drinks, they will start asking for them.  Toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3 should limit their juice intake to no more than 1/2 a cup (4 oz) a day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Juice is often loaded with sugar and can cause cavities. And maybe even more of a concern, is the fact that toddlers who sip on too much juice throughout the day might be taking in too many calories and not enough nutrients. Small amounts of juice, within AAP limits or if used to help with constipation is ok. But as for other sugary beverages, like soda or sports drinks, I would avoid them all together.

Ways to Get Fluids Into Your Toddler

So what do you do if your toddler does not drink enough water or milk? I got some ideas for you! Drink water and milk with them! Kids learn best when learning from you. And some little ones like drinking out of your cup, so if that’s the case, you can offer to share with them. And some toddlers will like picking out a special cup all on their own. I would have them choose a different cup for water and for milk. 

You can also do other things to entice your child to drink. Using a straw cup, especially with different straws they can pick from. You can make ice cubes into shapes with special ice cube trays. And you can also infuse water with fruit to enhance the taste.

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