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should children drink tea?

by Leena D. Saini

My nearly four-year-old, Kirina, has entered the “let’s play princess tea party” phase of her life.  We have tea parties all day long for her various stuffed animals and toys.  It’s pretend, of course, but everyday she asks me whether she can have a “real” cup of tea.  Like many kids, she likes to feel “grown-up” and copy what her parents are doing (as a mother of two little girls under the age of five I require numerous tea breaks throughout the day).  I suppose from a little one’s point of view, it is fun to watch adults drink something mysterious out of pretty teacups and saucers. 

Kirina’s daily requests made me wonder, can you give children tea?  At what age can they start?

Most experts and parents agree, it’s probably not advisable to give your little one full-strength, caffeinated tea of any kind.  For obvious reasons, caffeine can lead to hyperactivity and a case of the jitters.  But parents around the world routinely give their children all sorts of teas, whether it is a weakened version of what they are drinking, or other hot, steeped beverages:

--In Turkey, for example, children often drink light black tea with lemon and sugar.  It’s often used to treat a mild cough or congestion. 

--Japanese children are often served mugicha or barley tea because it has no caffeine and is a warming liquid. 

--In Tibet, children drink tea frequently, either yak butter tea or tsampa (barley tea).

Many parents around the world believe there are great health benefits to drinking tea.  Black tea, for instance, contains flavonoids, which, according to tea experts, is good for heart health.  Parents prepare the black tea with plenty of milk and a dash of sugar so that it is not too strong.  Tea also contains antioxidants, which are known to heal the body in many ways.  Some parents also argue that tea is a better beverage choice for kids when compared to sugary juices and sodas. 

Tea is also soothing for children fighting off a cough or cold.  The warm liquid, combined with certain herbs and/or spices, can treat a sore throat, relieve nose and chest congestion, and even reduce inflammation.  For example, clove and cinnamon, two spices you can add to tea, are known for their anti-bacterial and analgesic properties.  Cardamom, another spice, has been shown to support the immune system. 

I personally love the following teas, none of which are caffeinated (I personally prefer to serve these to Kirina).  They are simple to prepare and soothing for children and adults alike: 

Ginger Tea
Wonderfully soothing from tummy to toes.  Ginger tea aids in digestion, eases congestion, and can help a sore throat.  To prepare: add a few thin slices of ginger to hot water.  Let steep and cool.  Serve with honey (only for babies over the age of one). 

Fruit Teas
Such a fun and happy way to introduce your kids to the art of tea drinking.  Familiar, gentle flavors with a touch of sweetness, fruit teas are ideal for tiny taste buds.  Fruit teas are available in everything from apple to orange blossom to raspberry to passion fruit flavors.  A little cinnamon can really compliments the fruitiness of these teas. 

Roobios Tea
This South African bush tea is caffeine free and naturally sweet, something that will be sure to please your little tea drinker.  Roobios is also known to provide some essential minerals for kids and can also help with tummy troubles.  Best of all?  It comes in tons of yummy flavors, such as chocolate, strawberry/vanilla and mango.

Some words of caution: Always remember to serve only warm (not hot) teas to your little one to avoid burns.  

And don’t forget the snacks!  Tea time is a good time to nibble on fun cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches (cut into dainty triangles of course), a favorite biscuit, or other sweet treats. 

Have fun!  A tea party with your little one will provide lots of memories and health benefits for years to come.

For more ways to spice up baby and toddler food, please visit me at www.masalababyfood.com or on Facebook, www.facebook.com/masalababyfood

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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