When Is It OK For Kids To Start Drinking Coffee?

If you order a cup of coffee for your kid while you're in line at Starbucks in America, you will be surrounded by disapproving looks and snide remarks about your (lack of) parenting responsibilities, but is this extreme reaction to a cup of coffee really deserved? What's the harm in giving kids a coffee from time to time? And what is an acceptable age for them to start drinking this addictive beverage?

Most of us know the effects of consuming too much caffeine: Insomnia, headaches, lack of concentration, and increased heart rate are just a few of the potential results of drinking too much coffee. It's not a pleasant feeling, and in young children it doesn't take much caffeine for these effects to occur, so obviously giving your kids a double espresso in the morning is not a good idea.

There have been claims that when kids drink coffee it interferes with their calcium absorption, and consequently affects their proper growth. However, there is little evidence to support this, especially since in many Scandinavian countries, kids start drinking coffee at a very young age, and they seem to grow up to be perfectly healthy (and often very tall).

So, obviously you don't want your kids to have a jittery childhood, so for kids under the age of 12, coffee is probably an unnecessary feature in their lives. Most young children already have plenty of energy without the need for coffee to sustain them throughout the day, so at least until they are 12 years old, it's best to avoid giving your kids coffee if possible. They'll still be taking in caffeine through other drinks (coke, sodas, hot chocolate), but a cup of coffee is an extremely strong way to imbibe caffeinated energy.

However, once your kids reach adolescence, there is no evidence to show that a cup of coffee will do them any harm. While you may want to hold off giving them coffee for as long as possible to help them avoid becoming caffeine addicts like the rest of us, if they're permanently exhausted, a cup of coffee with their breakfast is definitely not the end of the world. Just try to skip the cream and sugar, as obviously that isn't the healthiest of habits.