I am a green tea addict. At any given point during the day, it’s likely that I’ve got a cup of green tea in my hand or in my lap. For several months, I tried my hardest to keep my delicious brew out of my toddler’s reach. However, now, at two and a half, I allow her to drink it a few times per week.
As far as I can tell– from my own experiences and her pediatrician’s advice– there are no problems with giving a healthy toddler green tea, provided that he only drinks it in moderation. Here are some of the factors that influence whether it is okay to give green tea to a toddler.
Is it Caffeinated?
Caffeine is responsible for almost all of the side effects associated with green tea. Some forms of green tea contain surprisingly large doses of caffeine– sometimes exceeding the amount found in coffee. I allow my toddler to drink a few sips of caffeinated green tea, but I stick with decaf when she wants a full cup of it. Note that some pre-packaged green teas, such as Gold Peak, contain very little caffeine. These are generally safe for toddlers.
What about Sugar?
Some green tea contains massive amounts of sugar, similar to the amounts found in sodas and chocolate milk. These are not appropriate for toddlers except as rare treats. Check the label on your green tea before giving it to your toddler. If you make sweet green tea at home, dilute it with 50% water before giving it to your toddler. Note that sugar increases a toddler’s risk of obesity, malnutrition, diabetes and digestive problems.
Is it Close to Bedtime?
If it is late in the afternoon or evening, don’t allow your toddler to drink green tea unless it is decaffeinated. Green tea’s stimulant effects could make your already-tired toddler insufferably jittery. I don’t let my toddler have any amount of green tea after dinner time, since I don’t enjoy dealing with sleep disturbances and caffeine-induced tantrums.
Does your Toddler have Health Problems?
You should not give your toddler green tea, or any other product containing caffeine, if he has certain medical conditions or behavioral disorders. Even low doses of caffeine can be dangerous to children with congenital heart conditions. If your toddler is prone to tantrums, insomnia, irritability or attention problems– to a greater degree than his same-age peers– it is best to avoid caffeine altogether. Seek a 100% caffeine-free form of green tea or give him a different beverage.
When in doubt, ask your toddler’s pediatrician for guidance choosing foods and beverages for your child. The National Institutes of Health has more information about green tea’s overall safety.