Let’s set the scene, shall we? It’s a mid-December Saturday, and your sweet angel babies have been up since six. When they woke you up, you made yourself coffee at home. Made them a delicious breakfast. Got them squared away with screens and warm clothes and then loaded them into the Explorer to run your typical Saturday morning errands. But like we said, it’s mid-December. The stores are packed. Every single aisle is crammed with humans: confused dads, sulky tweens, crying kids, and stressed mamas. They’re out of almost everything you need or want. And, when you get to check-out… only two lanes are open. It’s 9 a.m., and you’re not even close to done with your laundry list of errands, but you desperately need a pick-me-up, so you run to Starbucks. The line wraps around the building. Surprise, surprise! (Not.) But you need it. And your baristas are usually so fast, right? Seventeen billion hours later, you make it to the speaker. Those sweet angel babies in the backseat are getting restless. But, ya know, compared to everyone else’s kiddos, they really have been so amazing. They deserve a pick-me-up, too. But what do you order for kids when you know you probably shouldn’t give them a PSL or Peppermint Mocha? Are Starbucks drinks for kids even a thing? You’d ask the baristas, but, uhhhh, they’re a little busy.
Luckily, you have us — and we have Facebook. So, we did the proverbial legwork. You wanna know the best Starbucks drinks for kids, and we have answers. Just you wait, Mama. We have plenty of answers.
But should I even give my kids Starbucks?
Every day, it seems as though someone somewhere is telling us what we should and shouldn’t do with, for, or to our kids. From caffeine to television to vaccines, a “concerned” party is always trying to tell you that modern conveniences somehow make our kids “less healthy” than our grandparents. Of course, none of it is entirely true. Our grandparents appeared healthier because they didn’t screen for as many issues 80, 60, or even 40 years ago. There also weren’t as many sedentary jobs: My grandmother was pulled from school in 8th grade to work on her family farm and then work at a shoe factory, a bullet factory, and another farm. Did she ever sit down? Yes. Around the time she turned 80.
So, we can blame modern conveniences like Blippi and Starbucks for our kids’ awkwardness, their adorably thick thighs, or their inability to hold a conversation. Or we could just use rational thinking to realize that it’s more likely our grandparents weren’t necessarily healthier, just different. And, once we do that, it suddenly becomes a lot easier to raise our kids with a little less guilt.
That’s not to say we should turn a Starbucks visit into a free-for-all for our little heathens, though. There are actually a few guidelines to consider when you feed your kids. Kids can’t handle as much sugar or caffeine as we can. Knowing those limits and monitoring their consumption will not only keep them healthier but will no doubt keep you sane.
How much caffeine and sugar can kids have?
When it comes to caffeine intake, there are actually super-strict guidelines on what is technically safe for kids, and it varies quite a bit depending on how old they are. Johns Hopkins has done quite a bit of research on the topic and here’s what they found:
Ages 4 – 6… 45 mg
Ages 7 – 9… 62.5 mg
Ages 10 – 12… 85 mg
Adolescents… 85 – 100 mg
Take note: The average-sized cup of coffee is 100 mg. However, caffeine can also be found in tea, various forms of chocolate, and soda.
In truth, sugar content is where things get more tricky. According to the Cleveland Clinic, kids under two shouldn’t have any sugar at all. They suggest that kids ages 2 to 18 years old should not have more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of sugar a day. That’s about 6 teaspoons. But, who has time to read the nutritional value of every single item on the Starbucks menu when there are a dozen cars behind you? Ultimately, each family can only do the best their budget and abilities allow them.
With all of that in mind, perhaps the best way to think of a visit to Starbucks is the same way many of us think of it: a fun, occasional treat.
So, what are the best Starbucks drinks for kids?
If you’re throwing caution to the wind, what do you get your kids? Let’s face it: Most kids probably don’t like coffee. That makes life a lot easier, though, because it’s one less thing you have to worry about. So, since your kiddo probably isn’t going to like the bitter coffee flavor in your PSL, what can you give them? We got suggestions straight from actual Starbucks baristas.
Low- or N0-Sugar Options
Trying to avoid caffeine and sugar, while still giving your kiddos the full Starbucks experience? Here are a few options:
- Amber W., from Menifee, California, has the answer. “For kids who can’t have much sugar, I have always gotten just a tall milk blended with banana and ice. [It] literally ends up being a milkshake but with no added sugar!” Just make sure you note that you don’t want them to have sugar. Another barista noted that many stores end up using the creme base in blended drinks, instead of milk, unless you specify.
- “Passion tea with apple juice [instead of water] was [the] favorite of my three kiddos when they were small,” suggested Tracy W., from Upland, California. Apple juice from the store tends to have no added sugars but works as a great sweetener for teas. A few other baristas suggested similar concoctions.
More Milky Good Options
- Gabriella O., from California, also has some milk-based ideas. “Tall milk with mocha, add ice and whip!” she suggests, along with simple milk blended with their strawberry puree.
- Meanwhile, another barista mom said her daughter enjoys whole milk with white mocha sauce and peppermint syrup. It’s seasonal and fun!
- A vanilla milk was suggested as a much more low-key version of a vanilla bean frappe.
- Another milky option is milk blended with mocha and vanilla, which we’re told tastes just like a chocolate milk.
- Another recommendation from Amber W.? “Passion tea with apple juice and strawberry inclusions,” she told us, explaining that it’s going to have a bit of sugar but not as much as the typical Starbucks syrups.
- It turns out juices and fruit blends are wildly popular with baristas. While not all stores have the cinnamon dolce syrup anymore (it’s in short supply thanks to COVID), many baristas had suggestions that included it. One super yummy option? The “apple pie frappuccino” which is apple juice, cinnamon dolce, and caramel syrups all blended with the creme base.
- The vanilla frappe blended with dragon fruit inclusions, strawberry, raspberry, or even blueberries were all barista suggestions, too. One mom said her kid loves how bold and colorful the dragonfruit inclusions make his drink.
- Our favorite fruity drink came from Alisha M., from Dekalb, Illinois: “Blended strawberry lemonade with a scoop of strawberry inclusions and blueberries added.” Um, yum. Lisa L., from West Bend, Wisconsin, said she adds scoops of vanilla bean powder to her strawberry lemonade and it tastes like pink Starbursts. We know a couple of kids who would love this!
Steamers, Steamers, and More Steamers
The most popular option for Starbucks drinks for kids? Steamers! A steamer is, in essence, any flavored syrup mixed with steamed milk. That means you can order a PSL for you and a pumpkin spice steamer for your kiddo, and you’ll basically get the same drink… just without the coffee, as steamers leave that part out. Take note, though: Order it “kid temp.” Kid temp drinks aren’t steamed to such a high temperature, which makes them safer to sip for kids. (Or wimpy adults, like us!) The sky is really the limit with steamers: If they can pump it, they can steam it. Just pick your kiddo’s favorite flavors and go from there.
PS: Never Underestimate “Starbucks Water”
Your kids want “a Starbucks” because that’s what you’re having. According to several baristas who are also moms or nannies, just having a “Starbucks water” (or, you know, water in a Starbucks cup) is enough to make them feel special. Though, you could also keep some packets of lemon juice handy to make it slightly flavored.
More Starbucks Drinks for Kids
The next time you go for a Starbucks run with your little one, order one of these drinks below. You can count on these items to be caffeine-free and delicious!
- Blended Strawberry Lemonade
- Bottled Juice Blends
- Caramel Apple Spice
- Hot Chocolate
- Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk
- Pink Drink
- Strawberry Crème Frappuccino
- Violet Drink
- Water with Strawberry Pieces