Kids and Tea? You bet!

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Most local tea shops carry a selection of Yixing tea pots with matching miniature cups. Here’s my favorite that has always been a huge hit with visiting children over the years. The amount of tea that is actually served is less than 2 ounces so no bathroom consequences to worry about. It’s just enough for a sip or two and to ensure that tea will be enjoyed at other times during the day.

Leave it to the Brits to investigate tea and its potentially beneficial effects on children. Years ago, more than 50 percent of all kids in England drank tea daily. Tea drinking had been a well-entrenched part of British culture for hundreds of years.

In recent years however, tea has decreased in popularity while sodas have captured the attention of children everywhere. Today’s numbers of children drinking tea in England are so low that it’s not even possible to accurately measure. With soda consumption on the rise, so too is the level of obesity in these tender consumers. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) in the U.S. as of 2010, more than one-third of all children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

It’s not surprising to note that one of the primary reasons given for restricting kids’ tea consumption has been concerns about caffeine. What makes that particularly interesting to me is that soda has roughly the equivalent amount of caffeine as a cup of tea, or even more in many cases. In addition, soda contains a variety of other unhealthy ingredients that are not found in tea.

A recent Medscape article reveals just how dangerous soda is for young children. A large scale study examining the behavior of almost 3,000 5-year-olds who drank between 1-4 servings of soda daily showed significantly higher aggressive behavior among these children compared to their non soda drinking peers. “Our advice is consistent with what is already out there: for the very young kids, any soda is not a healthy option,” stated lead author, Dr. Shakira Suglia, ScD, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City. “We note an association between soda consumption and negative behavior among very young children.” (Journal of Pediatrics, 2013)

Tea, on the other hand, has been shown to have active ingredients by way of pholyphenols, catechins and more, all of which have been shown to have tremendous health benefits. Fortunately, new research has investigated the caffeine and kid connection and produced some very interesting findings. Drum roll please—the caffeine found in tea actually has some benefits for kids.

Current research coming out of the UK by Tea Advisory Panel dietician Dr. Carrie Ruxton has actually shown that giving children tea that contains a small amount of caffeine can actually help kids score better on tests that measure mental agility, attention, dexterity, and memory. “Tea makes a tiny contribution to caffeine intake compared with some soft drinks but when consumed in moderation it is likely to bring benefits associated with mood and cognition,” she shared.

You’re probably wondering how much caffeine is reasonable to give to your children. Dr. Ruxton’s recommendations are to limit caffeine intake to 2.5mg for every kilogram of body weight for kids over age 4. That translates to about 2-3 cups of tea per day for school age kids and no more than 2 cups of tea for those under age 4.

Get Creative!

Now that we know tea is actually good for your children, let’s explore creative ways to bring a tea ritual into your home to help encourage the consumption of tea over soda or other sweetened or artificially sweetened beverages. Why not replace the classic after school snack of milk and cookies with tea and a healthier option?

I’ve got a few ideas that I think you’re going to like. They complement tea and bring added health benefits to your kids as well. ( note for editor – not sure what will be included here but nuts and seeds are very healthy and take no time to include as a healthy snack for kids- assuming no peanut allergies of course)

Another tea ritual that I think your kids are going to love is a special treat for after dinner and before bed. As the family is winding down and shifting toward bedtime, have your kids help prepare a simple pot of orthodox, whole leaf tea. Have a thermometer and timer ready which are key tools for learning to brew the perfect cup of tea. It’s also educational for children who are learning to use such devices effectively.

Using tiny 2-3 ounce tea cups, your children will delight in these kid friendly treasures while learning to enjoy the subtle taste of green or white tea. Once they’re old enough, let them pour from a small tea pot and serve their family this delicious brew that will ensure they’ll become life-long tea drinkers. What a wonderful gift you’ll be giving your children. The pleasure of tea will be something they’ll cherish over their lifetime and have warm and loving associations with their family at its core.

This century has secured the reality of two working parents into the household as well as increasing numbers of single parent households. Factor in the extremely busy after school activities that our children are engaged in, and it’s easy to see how we often fail to secure the relaxed downtime that families need to connect and stay healthy.

A tea ritual offers a wonderful opportunity to encourage this much needed family time. So turn off the TV, get the kids out of their rooms and spend some quality time together, as a family, sipping and sharing.


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Michelle Rabin

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