Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 4: Nutrition and Food Service

4.2 General Requirements

4.2.0 Availability of Drinking Water

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 11/9/2017, 03/22/2019 and 05/21/2019.

Clean, sanitary drinking water should be readily available and offered throughout the day in indoor and outdoor areas.1,2 Water should not be a substitute for milk at meals or snacks at which milk is a required food component unless recommended by the child’s primary health care provider. 

On hot days, infants receiving human milk in a bottle can be given additional human milk in a bottle but should not be given water, especially in the first 6 months after birth.1 Infants receiving formula and water can be given additional formula in a bottle. Toddlers and older children will need additional water as physical activity and/or hot temperatures cause their needs to increase. Toddlers should learn to drink water from a cup or drinking fountain without mouthing the fixture. They should not be allowed to have water continuously in hand in a sippy cup or bottle. Permitting toddlers to suck continuously on a bottle or sippy cup filled with water, to soothe themselves, may cause nutritional or, in rare instances, electrolyte imbalances. When toothbrushing is not done after a feeding, children should be offered water to drink to rinse food from their teeth.

Drinking fountains should be kept clean and sanitary and maintained to provide adequate drainage.


When children are thirsty between meals and snacks, water is the best choice. Young children may not be able to request water on their own prompting the need for caregivers/teachers to offer water throughout the day.2 Additionally, having clean, small pitchers of water and single-use paper cups available in classrooms and on playgrounds allows children to serve themselves water when they are thirsty. Drinking water during the day can keep children hydrated while reducing calorie intake if the water replaces high-caloric beverages, such as fruit drinks/nectars and sodas, which are associated with overweight and obesity.3 Personal and environmental factors, such as age, weight, gender, physical activity level, outside air temperature, heat, and humidity, can affect an individual child’s water needs.4 Fluoride has been added to the tap (faucet) water in many communities. Drinking fluoridated water and keeping teeth “bathed” in low levels of fluoride protect a child’s teeth by decreasing the likelihood of early childhood caries (cavities) when consumed throughout the day, especially between meals and snacks.5–7

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Playing Outdoors Preparing, Feeding, and Storing Human Milk Preparing, Feeding, and Storing Infant Formula Testing for Lead and Copper Levels in Drinking Water
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Increasing Access to Drinking Water and Other Healthier Beverages in Early Care and Education Settings. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2014. Accessed January 11, 2018

  2. US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. Child and Adult Care Food Program: meal pattern revisions related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Final rule. Fed Regist. 2016;81(79):24347–24383

  3. Muckelbauer R, Sarganas G, Grüneis A, Müller-Nordhorn J. Association between water consumption and body weight outcomes: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;98(2):282–299

  4. Wolfram T. Water: how much do kids need? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Eat Right website. Published August 10, 2018. Accessed December 20, 2018

  5. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. Pediatric Nutrition. Kleinman RE, Greer FR, eds. 7th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2014

  6. Casamassimo P, Holt K, eds. Bright Futures: Oral Health Pocket Guide. 3rd ed. Washington, DC: National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center; 2016. Accessed September 19, 2017 
  7. Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center, US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, Head Start. Encouraging your child to drink water. Updated September 11, 2018. Accessed December 20, 2018


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 11/9/2017, 03/22/2019 and 05/21/2019.