Sharing the Joy of Tea with Kids
There are few topics that I like to talk about more than tea. I love tea. I love the flavour of tea, the diverse kinds of tea, the ritual of making tea and the warm, calm feeling that I get when I settle in with a cup of tea. Tea is also one of my favourite ways of prescribing botanicals (plant based medicines) for adults and children alike.
While I would not recommend giving a child a cup of orange pekoe, chai or English breakfast tea (all of which contain caffeine!) there are an abundance of other kinds of tea that are perfect for children.
Preparing Tea for Kids
Making a cup of tea for a child is very similar to preparing it for an adult, with a couple of simple adjustments.
- Children often prefer a weaker tea. Adults should steep tea for between 4 and 6 minutes (depending on the type of tea and personal preference). For children steep the tea for only 2 to 4 minutes. If the tea is too strong, add extra water to dilute the strength (this is also a good way to quickly cool the tea!).
- The temperature of tea to be served to a child should be considerably cooler. I suggest serving children’s tea chilled, at room temperature or lukewarm (the same temperature used for baby bottles or formula – around 26-36oC).
Selecting Teas for Your Child
Selecting tea is part of the pleasure of drinking tea. You can have tea that calms you, tea that wakes you up, tea that soothes a sore throat or an upset tummy, or tea that just tastes good. You can select tea for your children in much the same way.
Teas for Health
Anxiety – studies show that more and more children are experiencing anxiety, and at younger and younger ages. If your child has anxiety associated with school, friends, separation or for any other reason try giving them a tea to help calm their nervous system. Teas for anxiety include chamomile, oat straw, passionflower (for children over four), and skullcap (for children over six). Prepare a cup of tea and enjoy it together in the evening or before stressful events.
Colic – even young babies can benefit from tea! A tea made from fennel, chamomile or peppermint can be very helpful in relieving colic in infants. A breastfeeding mother can drink the tea (1 cup three times per day) or the tea can be diluted and given to the infant with a medicine dropper (1 diluted tsp three times per day).
Constipation – use a flaxseed tea (1 teaspoon flaxseed in 1 litre of water, simmered for 15 minutes) to cook oatmeal. Prepare the tea and then use the tea instead of water to prepare oatmeal for your child to eat. Or add ¼ cup of flaxseed tea to 4 ounces of juice and give it to your child once daily. Constipation should resolve within 24-48 hours.
Coughs – depending on the type of cough there are several options for teas to soothe a coughing child. For a cough with sore throat, marshmallow root or slippery elm tea can be very soothing. For cough with congestion, licorice or coltsfoot tea are both effective.
(Note: Do not use for more than 3 days in a row. Licorice should not be used in children with high blood pressure).
Peppermint tea is a mild cough suppressant and can be used in the evenings to help children with a persistent cough to get some sleep.
Fever – To decrease chills and increase perspiration (which will shorten the duration and intensity of the fever) try a tea with any of the following ingredients (in equal parts): lemon balm, chamomile, peppermint, licorice and elder flower. For a child over 2 years of age ½ cup of tea can be given up to four times daily for one day. Serve this tea as hot as your child can tolerate.
Note: Do not use licorice in a child with high blood pressure. Fevers are commonly a sign that the body is fighting a viral or bacterial infection. If your child’s temperature exceeds 102F (38.9oC) consider contacting a qualified healthcare provider for further guidance.
Nausea – ginger tea is very effective in decreasing nausea, vomiting, upset stomach and for soothing the digestive tract. Giving your child tea when they are nauseous or vomiting also provides much needed hydration. Use ½ cup of ginger tea, three times per day for the first 24 hours of nausea. Ginger tea is also very effective for motion sickness. Try giving your child ginger tea as needed during car trips to treat motion sickness.
Teas for Taste
There are a great variety of herbal teas available that children love. Try fruit based herbal teas as a delicious and low calorie alternative to fruit juice. Many of the fruit based teas are delicious served cold as an iced tea. Some of my family’s favourites are:
- Chocolate mint rooibos – a loose tea, naturally caffeine free and deliciously sweet. Available at www.steepedandinfused.com.
- Passion by Tazo tea – hibiscus flower, lemongrass, mango and passion fruit combine to make a sweet, pink-hued tea. Fantastic as an iced tea. Available at Starbucks stores or many grocery stores.
- Raspberry Zinger, True Blueberry and Country Peach Passion – all by Celestial Seasonings are favourites of my 2 year old son. Simple, sweet, fruity flavours are popular with young children and adults alike.
So go ahead and try serving tea to your child. There is no reason why a tea party need only be pretend! You may be surprised at how much your child enjoys the flavours and rituals of tea drinking.
The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.
Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism. 2003.
Zand, Janet. Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child 2nd Ed. 2003.