If you are a coffee drinker then you will be quite familiar with the stimulant effect that coffee can have. It is great for improving alertness, boosting your energy and helping you to concentrate. In fact, that’s why a lot of adults choose to drink coffee. The rise in online coffee stores has seen more and more consumption of caffeine.

Kids like to do what adults do, and if they see you drinking coffee then they will want to try it for themselves. However, it is probably not a good idea for a young child to drink coffee. Caffeinated beverages can impair a child’s ability to perform tasks that require coordination, timing, or mental focus. For this reason, and others, children under the age of 12 should avoid caffeine or take in only very small amounts of it.

Caffeine is absorbed into the body very quickly, and it can act as a diuretic. It can also decrease a person’s appetite, make them hyperactive, and cause them to have difficulty sleeping. If a child takes in too much caffeine then they could experience agitation, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, and involuntary twitching. It is very easy for a small child to go over the safe dose of caffeine, since children should not consume more than 4.5mg of caffeine per pound of body weight, and a 12-ounce cup of coffee contains around 100mg of caffeine. Caffeine toxicity can lead to palpitations and an irregular heartbeat. Coffee guidelines are just that, too. Children (and adults) who do not regularly take in caffeine may be far more sensitive to it than those who do.

After the age of 12, it is safer for a young person to drink coffee, but you should encourage them to drink whatever they enjoy that is good for them. Milk is important for calcium. Water is important for general hydration and it is calorie free, too. Some fruit juice can be OK in moderation, but you should be wary of allowing a child to drink too much juice because it contains huge amounts of fruit sugars.

Remember coffee is not the only beverage that contains caffeine. Tea, hot chocolate and a lot of different types of soda contain caffeine too. A lot of people forget this, and then wonder why their children have difficulty sleeping after drinking tea.

Energy drinks are a common source of caffeine that is loved by children, especially now that a lot of the companies that make energy drinks are advertising them directly to children. Energy drinks are incredibly calorie dense and can contain hundreds of mg of caffeine per can. They can be very dangerous even for adults, and they can be addictive, causing withdrawal symptoms if someone uses them regularly then tries to wean themselves off them. If you are worried about the health of your child then you should focus on their overall diet and intake of caffeine rather than specifically demonizing coffee, because for all coffee was, generations ago, the major source of caffeine and the main ‘stimulant of choice’, things are no longer like that and there are many other beverages and treats that are engineered to be more palatable, more addictive, and much stronger.

Coffee is not ideal for very young kids to take in, but it is by far from being the worst thing that they are likely to consume. Energy drinks, pre workouts, supplements, and even certain snack bars now contain much more caffeine. Black coffee or coffee with a limited amount of milk or cream is mild by comparison.

Do be aware that flavoured coffees with whipped cream have their own sugar and calorie issues, and should be used sparingly because of that.