Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Lowdown on Caffeine for Children


Published:

The vast majority of parents wouldn't dream of offering their child a drug, even if that drug came from a natural source. Yet many parents unknowingly do exactly that on a daily basis, because they don't realize caffeine is a stimulant and considered a drug.

There's no compelling reason to give children caffeine, and there is evidence suggesting it should be limited or completely removed from their diet. While it may not be easy to tell what contains caffeine and how much is involved, it's a good idea to become caffeine-savvy. By identifying caffeinated snacks and beverages, you can easily limit or remove them from your child's diet.

"As a general rule, it is best to try to keep your children caffeine-free," says Dr. Maria Kelly, a pediatric professor at the University of Florida. "Keeping your children caffeine-free is an achievable goal. The easiest way to accomplish it is to eliminate all sodas. Try to offer healthier choices, like water, milk, flavored waters and 100-percent fruit juice."

Caffeine is found naturally in products like chocolate, cocoa, tea, coffee and kola (cola) nuts. It also has been added to many products, including energy drinks, some sodas and medications. Sodas are the most obvious, but when kids eat chocolate bars, or drink chocolate milk or hot cocoa, they also are consuming caffeine.

The effects of caffeine

Because caffeine is a stimulant, it usually perks people up within about 15 minutes of consumption. Most adults relate to this by recalling how they don't feel quite up to speed before having their morning cup of coffee.

In children, caffeine has the same impact. According to the National Institutes of Health, it has many effects on the metabolism, including stimulating the central nervous system. Caffeine can interact with other drugs, so it's especially important you know what medication your child is taking. Some people may have caffeine sensitivities and experience its effects in a more pronounced way.

Caffeine negatively impacts the body and offers no nutritive value. In addition, it can act as an appetite suppressant, leading to children not wanting to eat their food, and it has diuretic properties that can contribute to dehydration.

"Caffeine in the diet of your children can cause an upset stomach, headaches, jitteriness, difficulty concentrating and sleeping, and even cause elevated heart rate and blood pressure," Kelly says. "Consumption of caffeinated beverages also has been shown to increase the risk of obesity and dental cavities/decay. It can even potentially aggravate undiagnosed heart and neurological problems."

How much is too much

Most toddlers love candy and chocolate milk. Some young children regularly drink sweet tea, especially those living in the South, and some parents allow their kids to drink sodas that contain caffeine. How much is too much?

Katty Beard Wozniak, a Florida mom of two toddlers, ages 4 and 2, takes steps to limit her children's caffeine consumption. "I do allow my 4-year-old son to have a Coke on occasion, as a treat, but we do not have it in the house, and he is not allowed to have it at school," she says. "My 2-year-old daughter has never had anything with caffeine in it, and she drinks juice as a treat."

Wozniak realized there was a problem when her son asked for more and more of the soda she was drinking. "I soon realized it was a mistake to let him take a sip," she says. "The sip turned into a bigger sip, which then turned into wanting his own Coke."

She has since learned not to order a beverage for herself that she wouldn't want her kids to have. Doing so just adds frustration and makes the forbidden drink seem that much more appealing to the child, she says. She also never offers sodas as an option when the family dines out; she simply gives her son a choice of milk, juice or water.

The United States currently does not have caffeine consumption guidelines for children. Canada does. Canadian health officials suggest preschoolers get no more than 45 milligrams per day, which is about the average for a standard soda or 1.5 ounces of chocolate.

If you have a toddler who is routinely consuming caffeine and you want to reduce or eliminate it, make sure you are aware of the effects of withdrawal. Regular use builds a tolerance and dependency in the body. When you remove it, the body experiences a sluggish period that may be accompanied by headaches and irritability. This will, however, go away after several days.

Caffeine is readily available everywhere you go, and you need to decide if it is something you want to eliminate, or limit, for your children. Knowing what it is, where it's found and how it impacts the body is the essential first step.

Jacqueline Bodnar lives in Florida with her husband and two children.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

When Children Hear Horror Stories on the News

How do you nurture a children's confidence in a safe world even when they are exposed to disturbing news.

Teaching Children about the Value of Money

Spending savvy: Help kids understand the difference between "wants" and "needs."

Oppositional Defiance Disorder: Tips for Parents and Teachers

How to identify and manage a child with Oppositional Defiance Disorder.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

September 2016

Enjoy a fun-filled day, all while helping collect food and money to support local rescues. Last year’s Pet Extravaganza raised over 10,000 lbs of dog and cat food, and more than 20 dogs and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Joyner Park in Wake Forest
701 Harris Rd
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Sponsor: Dirty Dogs Spa
Telephone: 919-453-0765
Contact Name: Vanessa Davis
Website »

More information

Celebrate southern creativity and create art inspired by Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art. Watch a local artist at work in the Great Hall and hear music performances...

Cost: Free

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate southern creativity and create art inspired by Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art. Watch a local artist at work in the Great Hall. Don’t miss incredible...

Cost: Free

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
Telephone: 919-475-3425
Contact Name: Wendy Hower
Website »

More information

Prospective parents explore TISC schools, speak with TISC school representatives and gain information about which independent school might be the right fit for their family.

Cost: Free

Where:
Hampton Inn
3920 Arrow Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27612
View map »


Website »

More information

Rodeos, a mule-pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, carnival rides, street performers, bluegrass shows and more are all part of Benson Mule Days.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
Benson, NC  27504
View map »


Website »

More information

Engineer a super slick slide with special engineering guests from The Engineering Place, NCSU College of Engineering's K-20 Outreach Program.

Cost: $5/person. Free for ages 1 and younger, and museum members

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Registration required.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Celebrate Raleigh's newest creative play space with face painting and balloon art, food and art projects for purchase, community vendors and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
SnickerDoodles
3721 Lynn Rd., #112
Raleigh, NC  27613
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a nature objects show-and-tell with turtle shells, antlers, feathers and fossils for little ones to touch and hold, followed by a gentle 1.5-mile  hike along the creek through the shaded...

Cost: Free

Where:
Johnston Mill Nature Preserve
6001 Turkey Farm Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Triangle Land Conservancy and Hike it Baby
Telephone: 919-908-0054
Contact Name: Barbara Goldentyer
Website »

More information

Enjoy overnight camping event in West Point on the Eno Park, whether you're a first-timer or an old hand, for traditional camping activities such as storytelling, s’mores, night hikes,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
West Point on the Eno Park
5101 N. Roxboro St.
Durham, NC  27704
View map »


Sponsor: Durham Parks and Recreation
Telephone: 919-560-4405
Contact Name: Kim Oberle
Website »

More information

Learn about beavers and hike to the Beaver Creek bridge to look for evidence of them in celebration of Take a Child Outside Week. All ages. Meet at the New Hill Parking Area. Ages 6 and older....

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

More information

Enjoy a story around the campfire and roast marshmallows. Ages 6 and older. Registration required online by Sept. 21.  Adults must register and accompany children. Choose course #194776.

Cost: $2/person

Where:
Durant Nature Preserve
8305 Camp Durant Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-2871
Website »

More information

Take the family for live music, crafts and food. See website for hours.

Cost: Free

Where:
Carrboro Town Hall
301 W. Main St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate the motorcycle lifestyle with family-friendly activities ranging from stunt shows and specialty rides to live music and local vendors. See website for hours.

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Parent and child discover the amazing world of mushrooms and learn about these organisms that are neither plant nor animal. Learn how to identify some of the more common types of fungi and discover...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Parents and caregivers of babies and children experience the fun of music with Cotton the Clown. Cotton strums her red fender guitar, performing her vast repertoire of children's favorites...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cafe Euro
2101 S. Main St.
Wake Forest , NC  27587
View map »


Sponsor: Euro Cafe
Telephone: 919-971-1349
Contact Name: Alice Hoover

More information

Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Registration required.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park Community Center
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Miss O has just delivered a very special mission to Ollie and Otto, and they need help to crack the case in this live, interactive spy adventure base on the popular PBS KIDS program "Odd...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn about animal tracks. Observe nature on a habitat hike and use bug traps to catch and release favorite insects. All ages; adult accompaniment required for all children. Registration required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take time out to spend with your little one as you crawl, explore and bounce in a safe environment exclusively for children ages 12 mos-3 yrs. Parents play free; admission is $5 per child....

Cost: $5/child

Where:
BounceU of Apex
3419 Apex Peakway
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Children delight in discoveries of shapes, colors and textures in nature. Ages 1 and older with parent. Registration required.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Parent and child learn more about the park's nocturnal animals and night vision. Take a flashlight.This program is free in celebration of Take a Child Outside Week. Registration required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Children delight in discoveries of shapes, colors and textures in nature. Ages 1 and older with parent. Registration required.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Johanna leads preschoolers on a storytime adventure.

Cost: Free

Where:
Flyleaf Books
752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Flyleaf Books
Telephone: 919-942-7373
Website »

More information

Raleigh's State Farmers Market celebrates North Carolina's apple harvest with free apple dessert samples, recipes and more. Farmers and market vendors also will have plenty of North...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn to read the tracks and signs animals leave behind. Find out what animals eat and what they've been up to. Observe animals in action on a hike around the pond. Ages 8-14. Registration...

Cost: $8/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

This workshop provides examples of common forms of disobedience and some reasons why children have difficulty learning to follow instructions. A number of positive parenting strategies are then...

Cost: $20/person, $30/couple

Where:
Project Enlightenment
501 S. Boylan Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-7774
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy an energetic, musical storytime with Amy Godfrey, who was a Durham County librarian for six years. Babka and challah will be served as...

Cost: Free

Where:
Levin JCC
1937 West Cornwallis Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Registration required.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Enjoy a kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified and participatory music show. Children delight in active,...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump it Up Briercreek
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
"Pump it Up" Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Learn about coyotes in celebration of Take a Child Outside Week. Ages 6 and older. Meet at the Cypress Shelter. Register online.

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

More information

Kids spend a night out in nature making memories and new friends in an old-fashioned, camp-style program. Ages 8-12. Registration required.

Cost: $18/resident, $23/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy a display of original dirt track cars from 1948-1968, meet the cars' drivers, mechanics and owners, and shop vendors offering vehicle memorabilia.

Cost: Free

Where:
Occoneechee-Orange Speedway
320 Elizabeth Brady Rd.
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Website »

More information

The family-friendly even offers two races: a timed, competitive race and a recreational run. Strollers and dogs are welcome in the recreational run, and costumes are optional (but always...

Cost: $20/person

Where:
SAFE Haven for Cats
8431-137 Garvey Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27616-3180
View map »


Website »

More information

Give SkyFit (group fitness class) a try for just $2/person. Choose from two separate 25-minute long sessions: the first session begins at 9 a.m.; the second begins at 9:30 a.m.  Price of...

Cost: $2/person

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd. Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Join volunteers to help clean the park's waterways. Teams will pick up trash along the shore of Lake Crabtree and its connecting creeks. Gloves, bags and other supplies provided. Enjoy raffle...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Take the family for games, bounce houses, a hot dog lunch, live music, God's Puppet Squad, magic show, chili cook-off, craft vendors and bingo. Tickets are $8 in advance and will be pre-sold at...

Cost: Free to $8

Where:
New Life Church
6900 Zebulon Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Sponsor: New Life Church
Telephone: 919-730-9847
Contact Name: Mary Beth Roberson
Website »

More information

Take the family to an old-time county fair, featuring live music, animals, agricultural displays, heritage craft displays, re-enactors, quilt auction, and much more! 

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Oak View County Park
4028 Carya Drive
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Website »

More information

Help Baby+Company Cary celebrate its second birthday party. Enjoy cake, a bounce house, food, face painting, vendors, and plenty of family-friendly activities.

Cost: Free

Where:
Baby+Company Cary
226 Asheville Ave., Ste. 20
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

Carolina Kinder hosts a monthly storytime in the German for ages 4-7.  The German language and culture come alive with stories, songs, games and crafts.  

Cost: Free of charge

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4381-105 Lassiter at North Hills Ave
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: CarolinaKinder
Contact Name: Stephanie Vogel
Website »

More information

Learn about all things baby wearing. Whether you just need some advice to get the ideal fit for your carrier, to learn a new wrap knot, or to learn more about what type of carrier would work best...

Cost: Free

Where:
Grow, The Family Boutique
2885 Jones Franklin Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Website »

More information

Games, entertainment, information booths and food trucks await families in an event that celebrates National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month. All ability levels welcome.

Cost: Free

Where:
Holton Athletic Field
401 N. Driver St.
Durham, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family for live entertainment, demonstrations relating to the unique cultural and natural resources of the region, hands-on activities and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Jordan Lake State Recreation Area
280 State Park Rd.
Apex, NC  27523
View map »


Sponsor: NC State Parks
Telephone: 919-362-0586
Contact Name: Catherine Locke
Website »

More information

Join a nature instructor and look for signs of deer rubbings, deer tracks and deer scat. Decorate deer tracks to take home and play fun games. Ages 6-12 with adult. Register online by Sept. 27....

Cost: $5/participant

Where:
Durant Nature Preserve
8305 Camp Durant Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-2871
Website »

More information

Musicians and artisans, local and regional farms, and fisheries and restaurants promote the richness of North Carolina's natural resources. Enjoy live music, fresh seafood and more. Purchase...

Cost: $8 advance tickets, $10 at the door. Ages 12 and younger admitted free.

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module

Magazine

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Newsletter Sign-Up

Stay connected to what's going on for kids and families in the Triangle by signing up for our FREE e-newsletters!

Subscribe

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Exceptional Child

Children with special needs face unique challenges. Find resources from A-Z in areas of advocacy, education, camps and therapies to support them as they grow.

GPS [Go. Play. See]

GPS is your guide to explore all the Triangle has to offer, from museum expansions to new parks and schools to youth sports and family fun. Plus, discover our 2016 Readers' Favorites.

Education Guide

The 2015-16 Education Guide offers 539 education resources in the Triangle, including local preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.