Should Kids Drink Coffee?

[image via the New Yorker]

Of course kids are drinking coffee.

Soda is out—high fructose corn syrup, you know. Sports drinks aren’t any better.
Certainly not milk—even if you get past the lactose-intolerant crowd, there’s all that animal fat. Juice boxes? Too sugary.
The pickings are slim; it was either going to be coffee or kid-friendly bourbon.

And what exactly is so wrong with that?

Coffee doesn’t stunt anyone’s growth. That turned out to be a giant fallacy.
And it has health benefits, reducing the risk for Parkinson’s disease, liver cirrhosis, and gallstones, although they’re not exactly pediatric ailments.

Of bigger concern is of course the caffeine. Coffee does rev you up and can cause jittery nerves and insomnia, although some feel that coffees’ dopamine boost actually calms down kids with ADHD. Best is to keep a tally of caffeine intake from all sources—soda, candy, hot chocolate, ice cream, and even cold medicine could already be gunning their little engines.

Tolerances and responses to caffeine differ widely among individuals, but it’s pretty safe to assume that the younger they are, the less coffee they probably should drink. The United States hasn’t developed dietary guidelines for kids and caffeine, but Health Canada recommends no more than 45 mg/day for 4 – 6 year olds;  62.5 mg/day at 7 – 9 years; and 85 mg/day for 10 – 12 year olds— compared with moderate adult intake of around 400 mg. (about 3 coffees’ worth).

The real problem isn’t even the coffee.
It’s the vanilla syrup and the caramel drizzle, the steamed milk and whipped cream. It’s all the frozen, blended mochafrappacappalattaccinos that masquerade as coffee. And there aren’t many kids who take it black.

There are coffee concoctions from Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks that hover in burger-and-fries territory in terms of fat and calories. For kids, that can add up to breakfast, lunch, and dinner all in a single to-go cup.

Here’s a little math homework:
N= (2F)x 52
N is the number of times this year that your child will ask you for a 5-dollar bill to feed a twice weekly frappuccino habit.
Solve for N and you’ll have one of the best reasons for kids to cut the caffeine habit.

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9 Responses to Should Kids Drink Coffee?

  1. YoliA says:

    I have a cuban father and i think i’ve been drinking coffee with milk since i can remember. Cafe-Con-Leche, and we would usually have it with cuban bread, crackers or cookies/biscoti and that would be our breakfast. It is mostly steamed milk with a bit of espresso. Me and my brother were always well behaved, might have been more culture. We both grew up fine.

  2. Davis Hamilton says:

    I’m 14 and I drink a cup of coffee in the morning to help wake me up. Although it’s very addicting, it helps me get ready for school.

  3. Annette says:

    I’m a coffee drinker myself but whatever happened to kids drinking water? Seriously, I don’t think coffee is a good choice for children or soda or juice for that matter and healthy animal fat is good for children’s growing bodies. IMHO.

  4. Janice says:

    Not big nappers, I’m guessing.

  5. Erika says:

    My kids have both been drinking coffee since they were toddlers. Decaf, milk, no sugar. You should have seen the looks the baristas gave us when we brought our three-year-old into Starbucks and he ordered his own….

  6. Monet says:

    Love it. Especially the last line. My sister has gotten her 8 and 6 year old into the habit of sipping on her frappachinos. I don’t know how they feel about coffee, but I do know how they feel about sugar…Thanks for sharing, sweet friend. I hope you have a splendid weekend full of sleep, laughter and love!

  7. Amy K. says:

    Well, it’s a better option than cola or diet cola IMHO. When I was a kid, my grandfather would let me sip his coffee (Taster’s Choice + Coffeemate + sugar). I LOVED the smell and taste and still do!

  8. Janice says:

    I love all the coffee traditions. I have heard a lot of stories of young kids bonding with parents and grandparents over these kinds of rituals.

  9. RhodeyGirl says:

    As a kid sometimes on the weekends my (Italian) mom would make a special breakfast for us. She would put about 1/2 an espresso in a BIG bowl and fill the rest with warm milk. We would dip our little plain cookies into it and enjoy.

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