Kids and coffee

Coincidentally or not, my interest in coffee really took off 3.5 years ago when our son was born. Now that our daughter is on the verge of entering this world (due in 2 weeks!), I’ve been thinking again about the connection between kids and coffee.

Without knowing exactly what coffee’s about, it seems kids naturally become interested in it as part of their parents’ morning/daily routine at home from very early on. There are toy coffee makers available—this one is particularly cute—and my own son has been pleading to help me make coffee since he could put two words together. I let him push the buttons sometimes. Curiously, he’s never asked for a sip.

On that note, here’s a question: how old were you when you first tried coffee? Honestly, I can’t remember, but I seriously doubt it was as early as age 3. And yet I’ve seen kids not much older than that in France sipping baby cafés au lait. The coffee in these mini-drinks was heavily diluted with milk (and possibly a little sugar), but it was nevertheless present (and presumably detectable tastewise). So, there’s some cultural variability concerning this issue.

Here’s another question: should we restrict kids’ access to coffee? One might pause before answering to consider why anyone would even ask in the first place. Surely the answer has to do with caffeine and the perception that its effects would be harmful during development.

I’m no M.D., but I’ve noticed some disagreement about caffeine chez les enfants in the literature—as described by the popular press, at least. For instance, on the one hand you’ve got the occasional doctor actually recommending coffee breaks for kids. This recent Daily Mail article is a case in point. On the other, you’ve got evidence of caffeine’s ability to disrupt sleep habits in children as young as 5, as discussed in this U.S. News & World Report commentary (preview: blame soft drinks). God knows you don’t want to give a child yet *another* reason not to go to bed.

Speaking of, the boy just got out of bed for the fifth time tonight. To be continued. While you’re waiting for part two, here’s a song by the Descendents called “Kids on Coffee” to keep you entertained.

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