Green tea is well-known for its health benefits for adults, ranging from reducing the risk of cancer to improving concentration. But should children drink green tea? There aren’t any studies about the pediatric use of green tea, so experts don’t usually recommend it. And when you consider that the anti-cancer and cardiac-health benefits of green tea help to combat diseases that primarily affect adults, the argument for giving green tea to children seems weak. However, there are certain circumstances in which green tea can be beneficial to children.
Firstly, remember that green tea contains caffeine. Though it contains less caffeine than coffee, it is definitely a stimulating drink. Children are especially susceptible to beverages like this, since their metabolisms work in shorter cycles, so caffeine enters the bloodstream of a child quickly.
Caffeine can cause a number of side effects in children, all related to its stimulating effects. Most obviously, it can make kids hyperactive. If your children already have “too much” energy, or tend to easily wear themselves out to the point of exhaustion, avoid giving them tea at all.
If your child experiences insomnia, inability to concentrate, irritability, or hyperactivity after drinking green tea, it is a clear sign your child is either extra-sensitive to the effects of caffeine or has consumed too much at once. Give your child weaker tea, or none at all. Children really don’t need to drink green tea, so why give your child tea to drink if it is only going to create problems?
Never use caffeine as a method to cause your child to expend extra energy before nap-time, causing a state of exhaustion; this unnaturally manipulates your child’s bodily processes which can cause imbalance.
But, if you find that green tea helps your child play—that is, your child seems to have more fun after drinking it, and doesn’t crash afterward—then you can probably give your child a small amount. Similarly, if your child is usually a bit sluggish, a bit of green tea can balance that tendency with its stimulating effect. So, if you notice that green tea helps your child concentrate, communicate, or engage in any healthful activity, feel free to serve your child a small amount of green tea.
Some children don’t know how to “budget” their energy levels; others do. Some will stay active long after they are exhausted, becoming more and more irritable. Others ask to rest as soon as they are tired. If your child is the first type, you should not provide green tea at all, unless it is a very small amount at the beginning of a play period.
Sweeteners are another reason to avoid giving green tea to children. If your child finds green tea too bitter, try brewing it weaker, or add a bit of milk. Don’t use sweeteners to mask bitterness, and don’t try to trick your child into drinking green tea by adding sugars of any kind. Again, tea is not necessary for most children, so why add sweeteners, which can result in your child crashing when the sugar high is gone? Very small children should not drink any caffeine at all. Their metabolisms are very sensitive, and react strongly to stimulants like caffeine and sugar.
In general, children don’t usually need to drink tea. Don’t give children green tea if it causes any problems at all. If green tea helps children become more healthily energetic, a little bit can be beneficial, but never give a child enough green tea to cause negative effects. Don’t give green tea to small children. Use your parental instincts, but never give more than a moderate amount of green tea to any child.