For many adults a cup of tea is more than just a drink. It’s a boost when you’re tired, a warming device and an excuse to catch up with a friend.
But is the drink itself actually safe for young children to enjoy?
The age old debate around children drinking tea was brought to the surface once again by a recent post on parental messaging board, Mumsnet which received a lot of replies.
Some mums recalled relatives having tea in their bottles and others raised the issues of caffeine consumption and iron absorption.
But the question that has been on the minds of parents for years, was still left unanswered.
So we spoke to a child nutrition expert to get to the bottom of this debate.
Charlotte Stirling-Reed is a nutritionist who specialises in infant and toddler nutrition.
She said: “It’s not ideal to offer tea or coffee to any children under the age of five.
“The main reason for this is caffeine. We just do not know what effect it might have on them.
“We know it is a stimulate and we know as adults we are all affected by it in different ways.”
Charlotte acknowledged that this could be against the advice of older adults who may have drank tea from a young age themselves.
She added: “Just because it’s fine for some people doesn’t mean it is for everyone. It affects us all differently.
“It’s not to say it will definitely have a massive impact on the child’s health, but we just do not know for definite, so it’s best to avoid it.”
How does tea affect a child?
Apart from the unknown impact of caffeine, there is another element of tea that could affect children.
Charlotte explained: “There is also something in tea called tannis which impacts and decreases our iron intake.
“Foods high in iron like eggs and fish aren’t something we really associate with young children.
“So if they regularly drink tea, the little iron they are getting will be affected.
“In a similar way, I would never advise adults to drink tea with a lunch or a big meal either. Tannis will take away from any iron adults are getting in that meal.”
At what age is it acceptable to start drinking tea?
Charlotte who owns SR Nutrition and has worked with the NHS, charities and commercial companies, explained that there is no cut and dry age for when it’s safe for children to drink tea.
She said: “We usually refer to 0-5 as early years, which are the really important ages of development. So older than five is a rough guide.
“When children start to explore food more and are probably more likely to get different types of nutrients in their diet, is when tea may start to have less of an impact on them.
“The longer you can leave it before giving it to them, the better. They do not need it, they don’t need that boost that tea gives adults.
“It’s not bad every now and then, nothing should be completely off limits, but it’s just best not to make it a regular thing.
“After all it is a drug and a stimulant and we wouldn’t encourage any other drugs.”
What about older generations who had tea in their bottles?
There’s no denying it, this will always provoke debate especially among people of different generations, but Charlotte addressed these issues which she said she sees all too often.
“Evidence and research has changed. We have learned a lot a new things, which makes giving young children tea more of a risk than it used to be because we know more.
“We know that caffeine has an impact on the growth of a baby during pregnancy but we just do not know exactly how it affects young children.
Do you give your young children tea?
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“Just because it’s fine for some people doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. It affects us all differently.
“Those who did drink it as children won’t necessarily have problems but it’s just all about risk now and it’s be best not to take that risk with young children.”
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