Is Tea Good For A Toddler? Here's The Research

Is Tea Good for a Toddler - Header Image

Key Points

  • Tea consumption for toddlers should be moderated as there are numerous health benefits and drawbacks
  • Avoid tea's containing caffeine to ensure minimal disruption of your toddler's sleep cycle

As adults, our relationship with tea is pretty straightforward. The cozy brew is a surefire way to warm up when the weather is just too cold, and it even puts an end to sniffles and fever when we're down with the flu.

Is tea good for a toddler? Toddlers after 6 months can start drinking tea, but hold back the honey until they are 12 months old. Some experts claim tea increases concentration and enhances teeth development, however, be mindful that some varieties contain caffeine keeping them awake or could be high in polyphenols which could inhibit iron absorption if not moderated.

5 Benefits of Tea That Are Hard to Ignore

Boosts Their Teeth Development

Researchers recently found that the leaves of the OG tea plant, Camellia sinensis, contain a certain amount of fluoride, which is -of course- infused into the water when the leaves are steeped.

Toddler with a Toothy Grin

This may sound hazardous, but it's good news for your teething toddler as fluoride remineralizes the tough outer coating (enamel) of their baby teeth, makes them more resistant to bacteria and acids, and thus, prevents cavities.

Soothes Cough and Sore Throat

For centuries now, people have been using hot tea to relieve flu-like symptoms such as sore throat and coughing. That's because the drink keeps the throat moist, reducing irritation and pain.

Toddler sick in his bed

Some herbal blends also pose a bunch of anti-inflammatory properties, which suppress the damage done by microbes.

Keeps Them Hydrated

Consisting of mostly water, tea is a great way to keep your little one hydrated all day long. And since it tastes better than water, the beverage is an easy way to get them to drink their daily quota without chasing them with a glass (or baby bottle) in your hand.

Enhances Their Heart Health

Experts also suggest that tea is an excellent source of flavonoids , which are a group of plant chemicals that reduce inflammation. However, one of the most notable benefits of flavonoids is that they keep your blood pressure at bay and prevent plaque from building up inside the arteries. So, drinking tea from a very young age could put your toddler on a fast track to a healthy heart.

Refines Their Social Skills

Drinking tea can also help kids improve their social skills as they get to participate in an adult-ish ritual that teaches them certain values such as conversing with other people and making mindful movements (i.e., stirring the tea using a spoon).

5 Side Effects of Tea You Should Know About

Disrupts Their Sleep Routine

By now, we all know that caffeine is one of the main components of tea. But, while the stimulant can be a blessing for adults (especially when you want to pull an all-nighter), it's not suitable for kids as it may disrupt their sleep-wake cycle by triggering specific areas in their brain.

Toddler in Bed Restless and not sleeping

And here's some more bad news: Since a toddler's liver and kidney are not fully developed , they need more time to process caffeine, which means they are more susceptible to its effects.

So, when you serve a cup of tea to your little one, you potentially crush their chances of getting a good night's sleep .

Inhibits Iron Absorption

You may already know by now, that tea is very high in polyphenols . These compounds are antioxidants that give tea the ability to prevent several chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. One of the most potent polyphenols in tea is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).

But, here's the plot twist: According to a recent study by the Penn State University , certain polyphenols (including EGCG) reduce the amount of iron that your body absorbs.

This could increase the risk of iron deficiency and related health complications such as low immunity, irregular heartbeat, and lack of energy.

Increases Their Risk of Diabetes

According to a recent study, kids that consume 1-2 cups of tea per day are more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes than their non-drinking pals.

But, don't panic just yet.

Since the study was very limited in scope, further research is still necessary to establish the validity of the results.

Of course, it doesn't hurt to be cautious, so serve the drink in moderation.

Could Result in Weight Gain and Adult Obesity

Tea is an acquired taste, and while some kids may have a soft spot for it, others often cringe at its slightly bitter taste. That's where sugar comes in. The sweetener sometimes becomes a go-to for parents who want to make the beverage appealing to their kids' palate, but note that this comes at a cost.

Sugar is one of the leading causes behind childhood obesity as it provides children with a slew of "empty calories," which is energy with zero nutrients.

Not only that, even serving herbal tea with sugar could be a recipe for a bad nights sleep!

So, by serving sweet tea to your toddler regularly, you could sign them up for a minor weight gain.

And yes, I get it; this doesn't seem like much of a problem (after all, kids run around like crazy). But, by exposing them to too many sweets you could be building an unhealthy eating habit that will follow them for the rest of their life.

May Curb Their Appetite

For some kids, tea could be the reason behind a sudden weight gain. But, for others, it could serve as the trigger behind a slight (or massive) appetite loss. Of course, that only occurs when you serve large quantities of it and fill your toddler's tummy with liquids. This could make them feel full and skip meals throughout the day.

Toddler Refusing to Eat

Herbal vs. Non-Herbal Teas: Which one is Better?

To determine which type of tea is best for your toddler, we first need to understand the difference between herbal and non-herbal teas.

"True" (Non-Herbal) Tea

This term refers to the tea varieties that are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis, a.k.a. tea bush. These include green, black, white, and oolong teas, and the only difference between them is the way they are processed before they reach our cup.

A plain cup of tea

Since they come straight from the plant, they contain a moderate amount of caffeine, so they are suitable for toddlers only when consumed in moderation.

Herbal Tea

Unlike "true" tea, this variation refers to a combination of herbs that may include everything from leaves, fruits, and flowers to roots, barks, and stems.

Some of the most common herbal blends are chamomile, hibiscus, turmeric, ginger, peppermint, and Yerba mate. The best thing about this type of tea is that it's naturally caffeine-free, so it's 110% recommended for tots.

5 Best Teas for Toddlers

By now, you've realized that not all teas are created equal, as some varieties contain more caffeine than others. If you want to get the best of both worlds and still serve the drink to your kid (without giving them the jitters), these five teas for toddlers are your safest bet.

Chamomile

Chamomile is one of the safest options when you're serving tea to a toddler. The herb has a floral flavor that kids won't help but love, and thanks to its high levels in apigenin (antioxidant), it promotes sleepiness.

Chamomile is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties , which could reduce acidity in the stomach and improve your kid's digestive health.

Fennel

Another toddler-friendly tea is fennel. The herb tastes a lot like black licorice, which is why many kids shun it at first.

However, research shows that it's the perfect antidote for gastric distress such as stomach cramps and colic , which is common amongst infants and tots.

One study even concludes that fennel can loosen the mucus in the lungs and ease symptoms in people with sore throat and cough.

Peppermint

Peppermint tea is often a hit amongst children, mainly due to its refreshing flavor. But, beyond that, the herb is often praised for its antimicrobial and antiviral properties , which could help you tot rest off a cold when they are feeling under the weather.

Catnip

A member of the mint family, catnip contains nepetalactone , a compound that's known for reducing nervousness in humans and improving their relaxation.

The herb has a slightly bitter taste, which may put your toddler off. But, you could ease them into it by adding some sweetener in their cup (preferably stevia) before serving.

Avoid using honey, though, because there's a chance of contracting botulism (especially if your mini-me is under 12 months of age).

Ginger

Ginger tea is another excellent option. The root poses some impressive anti-inflammatory qualities, which is why it aids digestion . Given its intense flavor, kids will either love it or hate it, so blending it with other herbs could do the trick.

3 Alternatives to Tea for Toddlers

If you're convinced that tea shouldn't be part of your kiddo's life (at least, for now), there are several other drinks that you can serve to your little one without second-guessing whether you did the right thing or not. Here are some ideas.

Freshly Squeezed Juices

Homemade juices are a great way to keep your toddler hydrated and squeeze some nutrients into the mix. Just pick their favorite options and experiment with different combinations to find the ones they like the most. Just be mindful of sugar.

Flavored Water

Flavored water is by far the healthiest alternative as it combines fruits' nutrients with water's inherent benefits. To make a batch, just soak a handful of fruits into a jug of water for about 20 minutes.

Fortified Plant Milk

Cow's milk would be the obvious choice here. But, since many kids suffer from allergies and lactose intolerance these days, you should be open to the idea of serving them a cup of fortified almond or cashew milk instead. You can practice that until your pediatrician says it's OK to move onto regular milk.

3 Tips to Make Tea for Toddlers

Use Fewer Leaves

Since caffeine will always be an issue when it comes to tea, you can minimize its effects by adding fewer leaves. This way, you'll make your kiddo's brew weaker. You can also steep the leaves for just 2 minutes (instead of 4-5), and if it turns out strong, you can dissolve it with water.

Avoid Sweeteners

Certain varieties of tea can indeed be quite bitter to the taste. So, if your little one complains that they don't like the taste, just let it go, and don't try and lure them in by adding sugar to their cup. Just move onto another blend/brew. PS: If you insist upon using something sweet, opt for stevia leaves.

Don't Serve Tea in a Bottle/Sippy Cup

While each parent may have a different opinion on whether they should give tea to their toddlers, most agree that serving tea in a bottle or sippy cup is downright wrong.

Toddler drinking tea from a Sippy Cup that should be avoided

To be honest, I agree with this idea because such a habit increases a tot's risk of tooth decay. And that's because the sweetened liquid gets in contact with their teeth for longer, and bacteria are more likely to grow in the area.

The Takeaway

Judging from the studies we've come across so far, it's easy to see that science falls all over the map when it comes to toddlers sipping a cuppa (It's bad! It's good! It's meh!). But, instead of siding with just one of these three options (and blatantly ignoring the rest), I'd advise you to consider the golden rule: "Everything in moderation." You should also consult with your pediatrician to get an OK for specific blends and brews as some of them may interact with the meds your kid is taking or the conditions she has.