I am very much opposed to giving children hot drinks of any kind. If they are to drink substances which are injurious, as tea or coffee, let them be cool. I do not say cold, for that would be going to the other extreme. But no drink, in any ordinary case, should be above the heat of our bodies; that is, about 98 degrees of Fahrenheit’s thermometer. Yet the precautions of this paragraph will be almost unnecessary, if children are confined—as they ought to be, and would be, did we not go out of our way to teach them otherwise—to water, as their only drink. Cold water is almost always preferred. Not one child in a thousand would ever prefer it hot, until his taste had been perverted. No writer has inveighed more against hot drinks of every kind, than the late William Cobbett—and, as I think, with more justice.
But, in avoiding one rock, we must not, as has already been intimated, make shipwreck on another. Hot drinks, though they injure the powers of the stomach, and by that means and through that medium, are one principal cause of the almost universal early decay of teeth, are yet less injurious, or at least less dangerous, immediately, than cold ones. Mr. Locke, in speaking of the sports of a child, in the open air, has the following quaint, but judicious remarks:
“Playing in the open air has but this one danger in it, that I know; and that is, that when he is hot with running up and down, he should sit or lie down on the cold or moist earth. This, I grant, and drinking cold drink, when they are hot with labor or exercise, brings more people to the grave, or to the brink of it, by fevers and other diseases, than anything I know. These mischiefs are easily enough prevented when he is little, being then seldom out of sight. And if, during his childhood, he be constantly and rigorously kept from sitting on the ground, or drinking any cold liquor, while he is hot, the custom of forbearing, grown into habit, will help much to preserve him, when he is no longer under his maid’s or tutor’s eye.
“More fevers and surfeits are got by people’s drinking when they are hot, than by any one thing I know. If he (the child) be very hot, he should by no means drink; at least a good piece of bread, first to be eaten, will gain time to warm his drink blood hot, which then he may drink safely. If he be very dry, it will go down so warmed, and quench his thirst better; and if he will not drink it so warmed, abstaining will not hurt him. Besides, this will teach him to forbear, which is a habit of the greatest use for health of mind and body too.”
The last remarks are full of wisdom. Mothers may depend upon it, that every indulgence to which they accustom their children paves the way for habitual indulgence; and has a tendency to lead, indirectly, to indulgence in other matters; and, on the contrary, every self-denial which they can lead children to exercise, voluntarily—even in these every-day matters of food, drink, exercise, &c. is so much gained in the great work of self-denial and the resisting of temptation in matters of higher importance. But I must not moralize too long; having dwelt on this same point under the head Confectionary. I proceed, therefore, to make a few more extracts from Mr. Locke: