Is Caffeine Safe For Children (When Can Kids Start Drinking Coffee?)

Explore the safety and health implications of allowing children to drink coffee in this informative article.

July 8, 2024
Coffee overflowing from a white cup.

Children drinking coffee is a popular discussion topic. If your preteen asks “What age can you drink coffee,“ you've come to the right place to find the answer. The caffeine content is the main concern for children who drink coffee. 

Some studies suggest caffeine adversely affects children's emotional health and sleep [1].

Yet benefits may include improved physical performance and respiratory issues among other populations.

In general, starting around age 12, it’s safe for kids to drink a small amount of coffee, but should avoid consuming it very often.

Related: Why Doesn’t Caffeine Affect Me?

Children & Coffee: What the Research Says

There aren’t many studies examining the impact caffeine has on developing children. The long-term side effects remain unknown.

Several health agencies around the world have tried to quantify this question by providing clear guidelines for the safe intake of caffeine in children.

For example, the Canadian government suggests a limit of 2.5 mg of caffeine per kg of body weight for children (up to 18 years) [2].

Compare this to adults, which is closer to 300 or 400 mg of daily caffeine per day (depending on specific circumstances).


Maximum Daily Caffeine Intake (mg)

Children (up to 18 years)

2.5/kg of bodyweight

Pregnant women

300 mg total

Women planning to become pregnant

300 mg total

Breastfeeding women

300 mg total

Adults (18+)

400 mg total

Source: Recommended Maximum Caffeine Daily Intake [2]

Other basic guidelines on daily coffee consumption for children from the Canadian government are as follows [3]: 

  • Age 4–6 — 45 mg
  • Age 7–9 — 62.5 mg
  • Age 10–12 — 85 mg
  • Adolescents (12–18) — 85–100 mg

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a powerful take on caffeine and children. The AAP finds caffeine unsuitable for kids because of potential, untested long-term consequences. 

Disrupted sleep and increased anxiety are a couple of examples. Overall, caffeine isn’t recommended for children under 12, and teens under 18 should limit consumption to 100 mg/day [4]. 

Limited research exists on the long-term effects of caffeine intake on children. This makes giving guidelines on how old to drink coffee tricky but not impossible!

The Australian government has similar advice. They recommend consuming no more than 400 mg of daily caffeine. Under Australian advice, children should wait to drink coffee until they are 19 years old [5]. 

Caffeine can add up to a surprising amount throughout the day. Knowing a rough estimate of your daily caffeine consumption can be helpful, and understanding the caffeine you and your teen have makes monitoring easier. 

Caffeine Content of Common Beverages



Caffeine (mg)

Herbal tea

1 brewed bag


Lipton Lemon Iced Tea

16.9 oz


Coca-cola regular

12 oz. 


Diet coke

12 oz.


Yoga Pure Green Tea

1 brewed bag


Phocus Caffeinated Sparkling Water

11.5 oz.


Pure Leaf Unsweetened Black Tea

16.9 oz


Mountain Dew AMP Original

16 oz. 


Starbucks Double-Shot Espresso

1.5 oz. doppio


Starbucks Caffè Latte or Cappuccino

16 oz. grande


Monster Energy

16 oz.


Prime Energy

12 oz. 


Starbucks Caffè Americano

16 oz. grande


Dunkin’ Coffee

20 oz. large


Source: Center for Science in the Public Interest: Caffeine Chart [6].

Even drinking two cups of coffee a day can equate to a high amount of caffeine. When enjoyed alongside soda and a pre-gym caffeine drink, levels can skyrocket. Many studies show the negative sides of caffeine consumption. These include increased risks of anxiety, insomnia, and headaches [7]. We need more research to explore caffeine effects on children since bad side effects exist in adults.

Health Implications of Caffeine on Children

Generally, the more caffeine consumed, the more impactful the effects will be. Children are far smaller and less developed than adults, and caffeine has different effects on younger, developing bodies. There's a shortage of studies researching caffeine's effect on children's bodies.

According to Johns Hopkins University, too much caffeine can be dangerous and even toxic to children [3]. There’s still a lack of long-term research on caffeine's effects on children's cardiovascular and nervous systems, but recommendations lead to its unsuitability. Too much caffeine could worsen anxiety and sleep, making things harder for your child.

So, how old do you have to be to drink coffee? Ideally, an adult! Consuming a safe amount of daily caffeine is possible for adults. Keeping below the FDA's recommendation of <400 mg can lead to positive results [8]. As for children, long-term results are still in question. If your child struggles with fatigue, it's best to seek help from a pediatric specialist. Coffee is stimulating but better suited to adults who can tolerate caffeine well. 

Coffee Habits of Children Around the World

As children, our surrounding environment influences us. This includes drinking coffee at a young age, especially in countries like Brazil and El Salvador [9]. Coffee given to children in these countries isn't as strong but is generally sweeter and milkier. The age at which it is okay to drink coffee varies around the world, and different practices and cultural norms exist. Growing up in coffee-producing countries like Brazil exposes children to coffee from an early age – but is this good?

There’s recognition of moderation with children drinking coffee around the globe. A common factor seems to be the limited consumption of coffee for little ones to avoid unwanted effects. A dabble of coffee here and there for various symptoms is common practice in some countries. Regardless of culture, however, people recognize the risks of caffeine and children and don’t encourage large quantities for kids.

Alternatives to Caffeine for Energy

Reaching for a brew whenever we need an energy boost is something many of us do throughout the day. It takes a few cups of coffee to reach the recommended 400 mg/day, but for children, guidelines are far lower. 

It's best to opt for alternatives to caffeine for energy to avoid unwanted side effects.



Caffeine (mg)

Herbal tea

One brewed bag


Coconut water

12 oz.


Fruit juice

12 oz.



12 oz.



12 oz.


Source: USDA FoodData Central [10].

As shown in the above table, several popular drinks often loved by kids are caffeine-free. Coconut water, for example, is sweet, delicious, and high in electrolytes. Our bodies need potassium, calcium, and magnesium for bone health, muscle function, and more. Coconut water is a fantastic source of these electrolyte minerals, which help regulate bodily functions and improve fatigue [11]. 

Related: Why Does Coffee Make You Tired?

Poor sleep can affect the physical and neurobehavioral well-being of children [12]. So, achieving restful, quality sleep for young ones is essential. Caffeine affects sleep quality and increases anxiety [13]. This may not be the case for everyone, as it's possible to be more or less tolerant of caffeine. Studies show that the negative effects of caffeine on sleep don't bode well for children who drink coffee.

There's no denying coffee boosts energy. But is there a better way for children to stay energized and hydrated? Studies show a correlation between hydration and neurological function [14]. Hydration affects mood, fatigue, sleep, and headaches. Advising young children to steer clear of coffee is best practice. Instead, keep hydration and energy levels up by consuming water

Recommendations for Parents

So, at what age can you drink coffee, or at what age should you drink coffee? Limited guidelines exist, but they lean towards avoiding caffeine for children under 12 years. Between 12 and 18, children may be able to enjoy small amounts of coffee. This is only possible if daily restrictions are in place. Moderation and monitoring of caffeine intake are fundamental to avoiding caffeine-related issues. 

If you're considering allowing your child to enjoy a brew here and there, keep an eye on their consumption. Decaf can be a helpful coffee introduction with a limited amount of caffeine, making it easier to keep levels low. When consumed alongside soda, energy drinks, and other caffeinated products, tracking children's caffeine intake is even more essential.

Symptoms such as reduced concentration and fatigue can be covering up issues. If your child shows interest in drinking coffee for increased energy, it’s beneficial to get to the bottom of their tiredness. Consult a pediatrician for professional advice and guidance for fatigue in children and problems that could be contributing. 

Product Spotlight: Instant Vietnamese Coconut Coffee

Creamy and delicious, Cafely’s instant Vietnamese coconut coffee is a sweet choice. Monitoring caffeine intake is simple as each pack conveniently makes one brew with 125 mg (not recommended for children under 12).

Dairy-free, sugar-free, and packed with bold robusta beans, this coconut milk coffee is ideal for a boost on the go. Caffeine isn’t recommended for children, so this isn’t a suitable option for young ones. Adults, however, can indulge in a cup of silky coconut coffee heaven.

FAQs: Coffee & Children

Are you still wondering what age you can start drinking coffee, or do you have other questions? We'll answer some popular FAQs about children drinking coffee below: 

1. Is it safe for a 12-year-old to drink coffee occasionally?

It's generally advised to limit caffeine intake in children due to potential health risks and a lack of long-term studies. Children 12 or under aren’t advised to drink coffee and should stick to caffeine-free beverages instead.

2. What are healthier alternatives to coffee for preteens?

Herbal tea, decaffeinated drinks, milk, and fruit juice are ideal coffee alternatives for preteens. All of these beverages provide adequate hydration, which is crucial for optimal health and well-being.

Related: Which Has More Caffeine: Coffee, Green Tea, or Black Tea?

3. How much caffeine is too much for a 12-year-old?

The Canadian government suggests limiting caffeine intake in children (up to 18 years) to 2.5 mg/kg of body weight. For specific guidelines for your child, consult a pediatrician who can provide individual recommendations and advice.

4. Can coffee affect a child’s development?

Coffee may affect children’s development by interfering with regular growth and worsening pre-existing conditions. High blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, and anxiety are health conditions that may be affected badly by coffee consumption [15].

5. What symptoms should I watch for if my child consumes caffeine?

Look for symptoms like insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, nausea, increased heart rate, and anxiety in children consuming caffeine. Many of these symptoms are seen with large volumes of caffeine, but everyone has a different body that may tolerate caffeine differently.

Related: How To Stop Heart Palpitations From Coffee?


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  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Is Coffee Bad for Kids? Retrieved May 31, 2024, from
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  14. Liska, D., Mah, E., Brisbois, T., Barrios, P. L., Baker, L. B., & Spriet, L. L. (2019). Narrative Review of Hydration and Selected Health Outcomes in the General Population. Nutrients, 11(1), 70. Retrieved on May 31 2024 from
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