When Should Kids Start Drinking Tea or Coffee? Experts Weigh In

Tea and coffee are staples in many households, often enjoyed as a morning pick-me-up or a comforting evening ritual. But when it comes to children, the question of when it’s appropriate to introduce these beverages can be a bit of a hot topic. Some parents may serve their kids tea and toast for breakfast, while others might balk at the idea of their little ones consuming caffeine. To shed some light on this issue, we’ve consulted with experts in the fields of nutrition and pediatrics.

Understanding Caffeine

Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in tea, coffee, and other foods and drinks. While it can help adults feel more alert, it can have different effects on children. According to Dr. Sarah Clark, a pediatrician and nutrition expert, “Caffeine can interfere with children’s sleep patterns and can lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure. It can also cause jitteriness and nervousness in some kids.”

When Can Kids Start Drinking Tea or Coffee?

Most experts agree that children under the age of 12 should not consume caffeinated beverages regularly. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against caffeine consumption in children and adolescents due to potential harmful effects on the developing brain. However, the occasional sip of tea or coffee probably won’t harm an older child or teenager. “If a teenager wants to have a cup of tea or coffee every now and then, that’s probably fine,” says Dr. Clark. “But it shouldn’t be a daily habit.”

What About Decaffeinated Tea or Coffee?

Decaffeinated tea or coffee can be a good alternative for older children and teenagers who want to enjoy these beverages without the caffeine. However, parents should still be mindful of what else is in the cup. “Many teas and coffees are served with a lot of sugar, which can lead to weight gain and other health problems,” warns Dr. Clark. “And some decaffeinated drinks still contain small amounts of caffeine.”

Healthy Alternatives

For parents looking for a warm, comforting beverage for their kids, there are plenty of healthy alternatives to tea and coffee. “Hot water with a slice of lemon, warm apple cider, or herbal teas like chamomile or peppermint can be great options,” suggests Dr. Clark. “These drinks can provide the same cozy feeling without the caffeine or excess sugar.”

In conclusion, while it’s not uncommon for kids to be curious about tea and coffee, it’s best to wait until they’re older before making these drinks a regular part of their diet. And even then, it’s important to consider the potential effects of caffeine and sugar, and to explore healthier alternatives.