What you choose to offer your toddler to drink plays an important role in his or her overall health. After all, beverages provide nutrition and hydration, both of which help keep your toddler healthy and nourished.

Beverages, especially water, are a prime source of hydration for your toddler. Depending on his or her weight, your toddler needs about 4 to 6 cups of fluid each day to stay hydrated. All liquids, including soups, offer hydration, as do juicy fruits and vegetables.

Some drinks also provide nutrition, like milk and juice. Nutritious beverages also play an important role in meeting your toddler’s need for nutrients.

Adequate fluid in the diet helps all children stay regular with their bowel movements. Constipation can be treated by increasing fluids, such as water, or by using 100 percent juices or nectars to help stimulate bowel movements. Watch out though: too much juice may cause diarrhea, extra weight gain, and cavities.

Milk, or a non-dairy substitute like rice or almond milk, is the most important beverage for a toddler. Why? Milk offers calories, calcium, vitamin D, protein, and fat, all of which are important nutrients for your toddler’s growth and development. If you are using a non-dairy substitute, make sure it contains a good source of protein (or your toddler’s diet contains good protein sources like meat, eggs, and beans) and is fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Fat amounts may be important too, depending on the fat content of other foods in the diet.

Between 12 and 24 months of age, offer whole milk unless there is a strong history of family obesity, in which case, discuss a low fat milk option, like 2 percent milk, with your doctor. After age 2, your toddler can switch to low fat milk or skim milk. Limit the amount of flavored milk to 4 to 6 ounces per day.

Juice may be another healthy beverage for your toddler, provided you limit the amount to 4 to 6 ounces each day, and the type of juice used is 100 percent juice (no sugar added). Only offer juice with meals, not between them.

Water is a necessity for all humans. But toddlers need to make sure they are meeting high nutrient needs, so keep water offerings to between meals.

Other beverages aren’t so healthy for your toddler, including soda, coffee drinks, juice drinks (with 10 percent juice), sports drinks, and other sugary beverages. They provide a lot of sugar, few nutrients, and may take up a lot of space in a toddler’s tummy, making him or her too full to eat other healthy food. Another drawback is the sweet taste, which may drive your toddler to prefer sweet drinks. It’s best to limit these beverages or avoid introducing them altogether while your toddler is in this high growth phase.

Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, September 2020


  • Beverages are an important component of your toddler’s diet, providing hydration and nutrition.
  • Offer you toddler nutritious beverages like milk or non-dairy alternatives, and limit 100 percent juice and flavored milk in his or her diet.
  • Let your toddler drink water between meals.


  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Toddler—Food and Feeding.
  2. Castle JL and Jacobsen MT. Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School. Jossey-Bass/Wiley. 2013.


  1. Surprised to find that after two years from the last comments, the author has yet to edit the article to mention breastmilk: The #1 best source of nutrition and hydration.

  2. I was also surprised not to see breast milk mentioned. While solids are nutritionally important after the first year, this article discusses drinks for both hydration and nutrition that complement solids. Should breast milk take a back seat to whole cow milk and water? The complete omission makes it seem like breast milk should be off the menu…

    1. Breastfeeding certainly doesn’t have to be off the menu, but at 12 months, many young toddlers aren’t breastfeeding and are getting their liquid nutrition from cow’s milk, a milk substitute such as soy or other beverages such as juice, water or even sugary beverages. While it’s fine to breastfeed after a year of age, it’s not a primary source of nutrition for young toddlers.

    1. I understand toddlers begin eating more and more solids as the grow, but why is breast milk not considered the primary option for healthy hydration? Why isn’t it mentioned at all. The WHO recommends breath milk until AT LEAST 2 years of age.


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