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

August 2016

The Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary by expanding the one-day festival to two days. Enjoy arts and crafts from vendors from across the Southeast, festival foods,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Town of Cary Town Hall Campus
316 N. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 5-11 and their adult companions enjoy a 30-minute tour. Meet at the West Building Information Desk.

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Telephone: 919-839-6262
Website »

More information

Families enjoy a free craft, workshop, giveaway, photo download and activities.

Cost: Free

Where:
Bass Pro Shop
801 Bass Pro Lane
Cary, NC  27513
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

Take a look at the monsters and beasts that inhabit our dreams and folktales by peering through different lenses to explore the beauty, monstrousness and magic of these creatures as Paperhand...

Cost: Suggested donations are $8 for kids, $15 for adults

Where:
Forest Theatre
123 S. Boundary St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-0522
Website »

More information

Take a look at the monsters and beasts that inhabit our dreams and folktales by peering through different lenses to explore the beauty, monstrousness and magic of these creatures as Paperhand...

Cost: Suggested donations are $8 for kids, $15 for adults

Where:
Forest Theatre
123 S. Boundary St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-0522
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In addition to becoming more physically fit and coordinated, children are introduced to concepts and approaches needed to understand, create, and perform music and movement choreography. This...

Cost: Free

Where:
reCharge Pilates and Barre
3515 Witherspoon Blvd.
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


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

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

Tinkergarten is an early childhood education experience in the best classroom you could ask for: Nature! Tinkergarten offers play-based learning for children ages 18 mos-5 yrs, and is all...

Cost: Free

Where:
Apex Community Park
2200 Laura Duncan Road
Apex, NC  27523
View map »


Sponsor: Tinkergarten
Contact Name: Kelci Mukherjee
Website »

More information

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

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

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


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join other participants on an easy-paced hike around the park. Register online. Choose course #194768.

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 919-870-2871
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

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

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

Oak View, a “Charmander”ing park, hosts a special night dedicated to ‪#‎Pokemon‬ Go friends. Enjoy a special capture after dark. Staff will be placing lures through...

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

Take a look at the monsters and beasts that inhabit our dreams and folktales by peering through different lenses to explore the beauty, monstrousness and magic of these creatures as Paperhand...

Cost: Suggested donations are $8 for kids, $15 for adults

Where:
Forest Theatre
123 S. Boundary St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-0522
Website »

More information

Learn about raccoons and opossums through games and crafts. Play a trivia game and test your sense of touch with a mystery box. All ages; adult accompaniment required for children. Registration...

Cost: $1/person

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


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Experience the magical world of Cirque Italia, a traveling water circus. Our extraordinary stage holds 35,000 gallons of water and features a dynamic lid that lifts 35 feet into the air, allowing...

Cost: $20 and free

Where:
Villa Latina Plaza
3424 Olympia Drive
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Families take part in an unconventional family adventure race on a muddy obstacle course. Registration required bu Sept. 1. Spectators may watch families compete. Parking is $5/car.

Cost: $30-$40/person for race

Where:
Hill Ridge Farms
703 Tarboro Rd.
Youngsville, NC  27596
View map »


Website »

More information

Join bird enthusiast Vernon for an easy walk while looking and listening for feathered friends. Discover different types of birds and their habitats.​ Meet at the Waterwise Garden.

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 a hike to the Beaver Creek Bridge to observe the natural world. Take binoculars and a water bottle. All ages. Meet at the New Hill Parking Area. Registration required.

Cost: $1/person

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


Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

More information

Track your way through the woods with the help of the sun's light and the earth's magnetic field. Use a compass to navigate your way through an obstacle course and to find hidden treasure....

Cost: $6/person

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
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

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

Experience the magical world of Cirque Italia, a traveling water circus. Our extraordinary stage holds 35,000 gallons of water and features a dynamic lid that lifts 35 feet into the air, allowing...

Cost: $20 and free

Where:
Villa Latina Plaza
3424 Olympia Drive
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 941-704-8572
Website »

More information

Put on a straw hat or sun bonnet and head to the park to try out the types of farm chores the Ingalls family had to tackle and what they did to get ready for winter. Explore how the family tended...

Cost: $6/person

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Experience the magical world of Cirque Italia, a traveling water circus. Our extraordinary stage holds 35,000 gallons of water and features a dynamic lid that lifts 35 feet into the air, allowing...

Cost: $20 and free

Where:
Villa Latina Plaza
3424 Olympia Drive
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 941-704-8572
Website »

More information

Take a look at the monsters and beasts that inhabit our dreams and folktales by peering through different lenses to explore the beauty, monstrousness and magic of these creatures as Paperhand...

Cost: Suggested donations are $8 for kids, $15 for adults

Where:
Forest Theatre
123 S. Boundary St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-0522
Website »

More information

Experience the magical world of Cirque Italia, a traveling water circus. Our extraordinary stage holds 35,000 gallons of water and features a dynamic lid that lifts 35 feet into the air, allowing...

Cost: $20 and free

Where:
Villa Latina Plaza
3424 Olympia Drive
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 941-704-8572
Website »

More information

Celebrate African-American culture and history with an art gallery walk, vendors, kids' activities, food and more. See website for hours.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Fayetteville St., Downtown Raleigh
, NC  27601


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.