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Can Kids Drink Coffee?: Challenging the Assumptions

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Does coffee stunt your growth? That is what my dad would always tell me about drinking coffee when I was young. Recently, I was having a discussion with my wife about some friends of ours, they give their kids coffee. Naturally, I was perplexed and a little worried. Can kids drink coffee? Should kids drink coffee? My wife insisted it was a thing. There are people out there giving kids coffee.

I was curious so I did a little research. Here is the history of kids and coffee and my opinion of the age old question: “Can I give coffee to my children?”

Disclaimer: It is always best to discuss dietary issues with your pediatrician. I am not a doctor, just a blogger with google at his disposal. If you want to give your child coffee, call up your doctor and ask what their opinion is.

The Vilification of Coffee (Coffee is not for Kids)

According to an article on the Smithsonian website, it all started with C. W. Post in 1895. After several other business ventures, Post, of cereal fame, created his first product in the breakfast sphere. It was call Postum. Postum is a coffee alternative beverage that is comprised of roasted wheat and molasses. If you are interested in trying it (And who wouldn’t be?), Postem is still available for sale.

C. W. Post effectively ran a smear campaign against coffee, specifically warning coffee is dangerous for children. The whole “Does coffee stunt your growth” question originated with Post’s ads. In the present day, nearly all the claims against coffee by Post have been examined and proven false. However, most people, like me, still have a deep seeded base assumption that coffee is not for children.

Can kids drink coffee? C. W. Post would obviously advise against it. 

The Benefits of Coffee

In recent years, it seems that coffee is gaining traction. It is starting to be seen as a healthy beverage when consumed in moderation. There have been studies that suggest drinking coffee can help decrease your chances of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and type 2 diabetes. There is also speculation that coffee can have a small but positive affect on people with asthma.

One of the most intriguing aspects for giving children coffee is related to kid’s with hyperactivity and ADHD. Caffeine is a stimulant and may actually help a person diagnosed with ADHD focus and concentrate better (according to an article on MedicalNewsToday). Caffeine should only be used under the supervision of a doctor.

It is hard to find data that relates specifically to coffee and children. That is why most of these researched benefits are geared towards adults.

Does coffee stunt your growth?

It is now commonly believed in the scientific and medical community that caffeine consumption does not affect growth. Coffee does not stunt your growth.

There have been some studies that suggest caffeine may slightly affect your stomach’s ability to absorb calcium, but it is a minimal amount (equivalent to 1- 2 tablespoons of milk daily).

While caffeine in itself doesn’t stunt growth, you should also think about how drinking coffee correlates to a child’s sleep pattern. The bulk of human growth hormones are released while a child is sleeping. If you are pulling little Johnny a couple shots of espresso every night before bed, you may be disrupting his sleep patterns. This could possibly affect his growth.

Can Kids Drink Coffee Vs. Should Kids Drink Coffee

On most of the websites and in most of the research papers I read, the amount of sugar in caffeinated beverages was much more of a concern than caffeine. If you are going to be giving your child coffee, skip the sugar. If your child does not like coffee black or with milk, maybe it’s not for them.

There is no FDA guidelines for children and caffeine. In Canada, the suggested daily caffeine intake for children is 2.5 milligrams per kilogram. (There is 2.2 pounds in a kilogram so you could probably stick to a 1 milligram per pound ratio.)

An 8 oz mug of coffee contains around 100 milligrams of caffeine. This means a 50 pound child could have a 8 oz mug of half coffee and half milk.

In my opinion the question is more of a “should kids drink coffee?” over “can your kids drink coffee?”

While caffeine is not considered an addictive substance in the medical field,  you probably know people who get cranky and quite grumpy when they miss their morning fix. Do you want your child to be like this if they are going to be sans coffee for the morning?

Will I give my kids coffee tomorrow morning?

That is the question.

My son, Lincoln, is 6 six months old… no way for him.

For Adelaide (She is two and a half), I don’t think I see myself plopping down a 4 oz mug of manually brewed coffee in front of her any time soon (Even though I have the tiny Beehouse dripper). If she wants to have a taste of my coffee in the future… I think I just might let her try it.

What do you think? Are your children coffee drinkers or potential coffee drinkers? Should kids drink coffee? Let me know if the comments below. 


  1. Tim Stiffler-Dean

    I don’t know. I guess at a certain point I want my child to understand that everything should be done in moderation, and part of that lesson can be taught with coffee.

    I don’t want them to grow up, go to college, and binge drink, but the solution isn’t so much making alcohol this amazing special thing that needs to be restricted, as much as it is relating it to everything being consumed in moderate amounts. Create a rule (don’t binge drink), and it can be broken with disastrous results. Create habits (everything, including coffee, in moderation), and there’s less likelihood of disaster (and self-condemnation after said disaster) occurring in other areas of life.

    Or something like that. What do I know? I don’t have any kids. Lol.

    • John

      Thanks for your comment. I think one of the hardest things about being a parent (and I’m pretty new to the parenting game) is teaching self control. Self control is really what consuming in moderation boils down to. I like the idea of coffee being another vehicle for the everything in moderation life lesson.
      Something else you learn about kids real quick is that they mimic what you do and are always watching. The best way to teach is by doing what you are teaching, that may mean I will have to start moderating my coffee intake… Or drink more coffee after the kids go to bed ;)

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