Tania asks: My girl is 6 years old. She likes to drink tea very much, and she drinks it 2 or 3 times a day. Is tea harmful for her?
Hi Tania –
Regular (black, or orange pekoe) tea has many healthful qualities, and Green Tea has even more. So as a general rule, tea is one of the healthier things that humans drink. The two issues, of course, are sugar and caffeine.
Many people consider tea without sugar to be, well, just not tea! Once you put sugar into it, we have to reclassify it as a Sweetened Drink, in the same class as juices, punches, mixes like Kool-Aid, and soft drinks like colas. The simple fact is that kids love sugar, and it’s not good to give them much of it. So if your daughter is putting lots of sugar in her tea, I’d recommend working with her to “train” it back, by putting a little less in every time. Eventually, she will very likely enjoy it with no sugar at all.
The more difficult and interesting issue is the caffeine. Children do fine with a little caffeine, but a lot can be pretty detrimental to many of them. Here’s a great article I found, which talks about issues of kids and caffeine (though ironically, it never gives details about regular tea!)
Another piece, which gives excellent details about tea (including the difference in caffeine amount based on how long it’s steeped) is this:
To summarize all of this information, the basic answer is that there’s nothing wrong with your daughter having a little tea, but 2-3 cups a day is probably more than she should have at age 6. Especially as it will likely lead to her craving more and more caffeine, till she needs six cups of coffee a day as a teenager, which is really not good!
Two side-issues, though. First, you might hear that some children are prescribed caffeine. This is absolutely true. For example, it often helps children who are suffering from ADHD, by strengthening parts of their brains that otherwise are not acting fully. If your child doesn’t have ADHD, this doesn’t apply to her at all, and shouldn’t fit into your decision (but it is interesting, isn’t it!).
And second, for you and for everyone else reading this… a little caffeine is okay for a child. But never, never, EVER give caffeine to a dog! It’s really bad for us and can lead to all sorts of problems, including heart attacks! Even when we’re begging for a bit of that chocolate you’re eating, it would be way better if you find a dog treat to give us instead. Chocolate has caffeine, and it can really hurt us (no matter how good it tastes going down!). Keep that yumminess for yourselves. We’ll be disappointed in the moment, but in the long run, we’re a lot better off!