Dealing with a reluctant drinker

As a parent, one of the most stressful things can be a child who won’t eat, or drink or do either.

We spend our time as parents trying to do the best for our children and one of those things is trying desperately hard to ensure they eat and drink well.

When you’ve spent time making quality food for your children and they refuse to eat it or throw it on the floor it can be soul destroying.

Fussy eaters are hard work and the fussy eating ‘phase’ can last for ages, making it seem like it’s more the norm than a just a phase.

Reluctant drinkers can cause parents huge amounts of stress. When it is extreme, dehydration can become dangerous. Obviously, as parents we want to avoid that and put things in place to prevent us reaching that point. So what can we try? Here are a few ideas:

Trying different drinks

One of the first things to try might be different drinks or different cups. Children can be fussy and a change in drink or cup might make a difference. Perhaps your child won’t drink water out of a cup or beaker but will drink bottled water out of a sportster-type plastic bottle? Or perhaps they will drink water out of the bottle you use for work or the gym?

Ideally we want our children to be drinking water and milk in the main, but when you have a fussy drinker you have to step it up a bit sometimes. Perhaps trying little juice cartons with no added sugar and their favourite characters on might help the situation? Or perhaps if they’ve gone off milk, making it into a hot chocolate, or milkshake might help?

dealing with a reluctant drinker

Silly straws

Silly straws can be a brilliant way of encouraging children to drink. The whole drinking process becomes much more entertaining as they can watch the drink go up the silly straw and curl around. Perhaps they could try two straws at once even.

Using a silly straw makes more of a game out of the drinking process and can be a really handy thing to have in your bag of tricks. What’s more this approach is easy to take anywhere you go, as it’s easy to pop a couple of straws in your bag.

dealing with a reluctant drinker


It’s possible that some good old fashioned negotiation will work. The trouble with this is that as parents we find ourselves in negotiation situations with our children all the time and the process, quite frankly can be exhausting.

It’s possible that one day you will be able to negotiate with your child to the point that they will drink, but don’t get too smug, as it’s highly likely the next day you will need another trick up your sleeve – that’s parenting!

Races with siblings

Siblings can be a parents’ secret weapon when it comes to all sorts of things. There’s nothing like some good peer pressure…sorry sibling support, to get things moving.

In all honesty I find that sometimes the children are much more willing to listen to one of their siblings than they are me. Anything is worth a go when you have a reluctant drinker, so getting everyone to race to see who can drink the most or the fastest is worth a try.

listening to the small stuff

Star/sticker chart

Some children respond to star and sticker charts really well and parents use them frequently, others do not and see straight through the approach. You know your child best and will therefore know whether this is worth a go or not. Perhaps when they have a set number of stars or stickers for good drinking they can choose a treat?

Little and often

The prospect of drinking a huge drink can be quite daunting and overwhelming for some children. You can achieve the same end goal by trying to get them to drink little and often. A sip here and there soon adds up to a big drink over the course of a few hours.

The hard part here is that you need to be constantly on the ball and with your child. If you are dashing out of the door to work, or they are off to school then this approach is much harder than say, if you are all at home at the weekend.

dealing with a reluctant drinker


When all else fails and you have reached the end of the line and you STILL have a child who won’t drink, it could be time to bring out the big guns and go for a good old bribe – let’s face it, there is no exact science to parenting and sometimes, well sometimes we have to resort to things like this.


Have you had a reluctant drinker? How have you managed it? Do you have any tips to share?

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