Water supplementation has been found to facilitate visual attention and short-term memory, but the dose required to improve performance is not yet known. We assessed the dose response effect of water on thirst, mood and cognitive performance in both adults and children. Participants were offered either no water, 25 ml or 300 ml water to drink. Study 1 assessed 96 adults and in Study 2, data are presented from 60 children aged 7-9 years. In both studies, performance was assessed at baseline and 20 minutes after drinking (or no drink); on thirst and mood scales, letter cancellation and a digit span test. For both children and adults, a large drink (300 ml) was necessary to reduce thirst, while a small drink (25 ml) was sufficient to improve visual attention (letter cancellation). In adults, a large drink improved digit span, but there was no such effect in children. In children, but not adults, a small drink resulted in increased thirst ratings. Both children and adults show dose-response effects of drinking on visual attention. Visual attention is enhanced by small amounts of fluid and appears not to be contingent on thirst reduction. Memory performance may be related to thirst, but differently for children and adults. These contrasting dose-response characteristics could imply cognitive enhancement by different mechanisms for these two domains.