In-depth reviews guided by a Pediatrician

The Best Kids Water Bottle

Saturday October 5, 2019
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With kids participating in more activities than ever, it is essential that they have continuous access to regular hydration on-the-go. Carrying a personal water bottle can quench a mean thirst and fight off fatigue to keep kids running at full speed with a clear head. With years of experience using a variety of bottles, we are uniquely positioned to research and test kid's water bottles to find the best of the best. Though kid's water bottles have seen significant improvements in recent years, some options are better than others. We have the information you need to help you narrow down your options to help you find the best for your active kiddos. We also include buying advice to assist you in your search. Read on for more information on our favorites.


1

Best Overall Kids Water Bottle


Hydro Flask Kids Wide Mouth


Editors' Choice Award
$29.95
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 12 oz | Weight: 0.6 lbs
Double-walled insulation
Easy to clean
Carry loop
Expensive
May not fit in cup holders

HydroFlask Kids Wide Mouth is a beautiful, sturdy, insulated stainless steel bottle that does an excellent job of keeping liquids cold for the day thanks to its double-walled vacuum insulation. This ability means that junior can have a full day of activity and still have an icy cold drink of water at the end. This bottle should be hand-washed, but its wide mouth design makes it easy to clean with a bottle brush like the Munchkin Bottle and Nipple Brush. There are straw parts that may need a small straw brush for better cleaning. The HydroFlask is top-rack dishwasher safe, though we recommend handwashing for longevity. The straw lid version only comes in a 12 oz size, but the water bottle is available in other sizes with a Flex Cap or Hydro Flip lid if you want a larger volume.

Users may find the width of this bottle frustrating because it isn't compatible with most cup holders (think car and bike holders). Also, it is the most expensive water bottle in our review, making it less appealing if you're on a tight budget. Overall, the insulated steel design with a straw lid makes this option an all-around excellent water bottle. However, the flask is built to last and has a lifetime guarantee, which means the bottle is arguably worth the price of admission if your budget allows.

2

A Classic Reinvented


Klean Kanteen Insulated Kid Classic


Editors' Choice Award
$24.50
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 12 oz | Weight: 0.6 lbs
Chip-resistant exterior
Sweatproof
Eco-friendly
Kid-friendly lid accessory for purchase
May dent

Klean Kanteen Insulated Kid Classic is a double insulated, stainless steel bottle designed to keep contents cold or hot for an extended period, which is great for on-the-go lifestyles. The insulated design makes the bottle sweatproof, so your bottle won't be sweating more than your kids after playing in the summer sun. Klean Kanteen has recently updated its design to make the exterior more chip-resistant than the old version, and they continue to use eco-friendly practices and making/improving products that will last.

Keep in mind, if you have a younger child, the Klean Kanteen Sports Cap 3.0 may be worth purchasing with this insulated water bottle as it only comes with a twist-off lid. If screwed on too tight, the twist-off lid can prove to be challenging to remove and also invites spills. Also, the insulated Klean Kanteen doesn't have a silicone boot like the HydroFlask Kids Wide Mouth, so be forewarned that dents and paint chips will happen which over time. In total, however, this is a bottle with superb insulation that is made to last. For younger children, you might want to consider the lighter and non-insulated version called the Klean Kanteen Kid Classic Sport which includes the Sport Cap with silicone spout and is more comfortable for little ones to manage.

3

Stainless Insulation at an Affordable Price


Simple Modern Summit


Best Value Award
$14.99
(17% off)
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 18 oz | Weight: 0.7 lbs
Durable
Two lids
Priced well
Average insulation
Heavy

The Simple Modern Summit is a great insulated stainless steel water bottle available in sizes from 14 to 64 oz in compelling powder-coated colors. We tested the 18 oz, which is big enough for kids without being overly large or heavy, and it is durable enough to withstand bumps and drops. What we like about the Summit is its utilitarian affordability for insulated stainless with the inclusion of two lid styles, a steel twist top (plastic on the interior) and a user-friendly flip-top.

While this option is insulated and will keep beverages colder than a non-insulated bottle, we found that it didn't keep ice frozen as long as the competition. Also, given the steel construction, it weighs more than a plastic water bottle. That said, the Summit is a great bottle if you're looking for a stainless, durable product at an affordable price.

4

Best Plastic Bottle


Contigo AUTOSEAL Trekker


Best Value Award
$6.00 each (in 2-pack)
(50% off)
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 14 oz | Weight: 0.2 lbs
Leakproof/Spillproof
Lightweight
Dishwasher safe
Difficult button
Can break easily

The Contigo AUTOSEAL Trekker is a great solution for kids that tend to spill (which is all kids, right?). This kid's water bottle has a unique spout system that only opens when you push the button on the back of the lid. This design means no accidents from a lid that isn't screwed back on or leaking from a straw. This option is perfect for car rides, movie time couch sitting, school water bottle, or a nighttime sip of water. Kids love them because they are a step-up from a sippy cup and are lightweight and easy to carry. No more heavy bottle in their backpack. The entire bottle - lid and vessel - are dishwasher safe, though the lid does have nooks and crannies that will need scrubbing with a straw brush.

This product takes some coordination to make everything work, so it could be challenging for younger kids to manage. The button takes some getting used to, and children with smaller or weaker hands might struggle to press the button and drinking at the same time. Our four-year-old tester was a pro in a matter of minutes after being shown what to do, but the three-year-old had more difficulty and sometimes grew too frustrated to bother. This bottle may have durability issues as we found several reports of the vessel breaking, the body is plastic and should hold up reasonably well, but drops at the right angle could cause some damage. If you are searching for a thirst-quenching option that can't leak or spill, this press-to-drink product is a top contender.

Recall Notice Does Not Apply
The recent Recall Notice: Contigo Kids Cleanable Water Bottles does not apply to the Contigo we reviewed in this roundup of products. The recall concerns a bottle and spout style where the spout can detach and pose a potential choking hazard. The Contigo in this review does not have the same spout design and is, therefore, not included in the recall.

5

Our Favorite Glass Bottle


Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap


Top Pick Award
$24.99
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 16 oz | Weight: 1.1 lbs
Silicone protector
No leaching concerns
Dishwasher safe
Lid shutting problems
Potential leaks
Heavy

The Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap comes in multiple bright colors and various sizes. The glass bottle has a medical-grade54E3W2Q silicone sleeve that helps protect the bottle from breaking and provides a grip-able surface for users. Glass containers are inert, so there are no worries about leaching chemicals or imparting flavor to the contents of the bottle. It is also super easy to clean with a bottle brush or in the dishwasher.

Complaints about the Lifefactory are primarily related to lid issues. Some users complain that over time, the lid doesn't stay closed. Others feel the cap is easily nudged open in a bag which results in leaking. There are also reports that the cover drips even when adequately attached and sealed. This bottle is the heaviest option in the group weighing in over a pound. So it could be difficult for some smaller users to carry or lug in a pack. If you are looking for an eco-friendly inert bottle, then the glass Lifefactory is a quality option.

6

Our Favorite Plastic Straw Sipper


Zulu Torque


Top Pick Award
$9.99
(33% off)
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 16 oz | Weight: 0.4 lbs
Durable
Locking lid
Toxin-free
Not insulated
Can leak

Zulu Torque is a durable plastic bottle free of BPA, phthalates, PVC, polycarbonate, lead, cadmium, and latex. The flip-top and straw make it easy for little hands to open and use. The plastic bottle has a silicone sleeve to help protect it from accidental dropping or falls. The lid conveniently locks to prevent accidental opening when carried in a bag or backpack.

Although the bottle has a silicone cover, it is not insulated. This lack of insulation is something to consider if you want to keep your water cold all day. Also, there is a small hole below the straw to keep air flowing while drinking. If the lid is left open and the bottle tips, water can flow freely through this opening, making it leak-resistant, not leak proof. It is helpful to lock the bottle while not in use to help keep this from happening. The Zulu is is a good choice for kids who want a straw spout without the heft of a stainless steel bottle.

Check out another version, the Zulu Shorty.

7

Best for Travel and Hiking


Vapur Shades


Top Pick Award
$8.99
(10% off)
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 0.5 L | Weight: 0.1 lbs
Lightweight
Attachable
Travel-ready
Hard to dry
Leak potential

If you are looking for a compact, lightweight water bottle from 0.5 to 1.5 L, Vapur Shades maybe what you want. We tested the 0.5 L size that weighs only 0.1 lbs making it an ultra-light option perfect for on-the-go uses. We recommend the 0.7 to 1 Liter size for seven years and up, as older children will need more water for better hydration. When empty, the vessel collapses and rolls up for convenient storage in smaller packs making it an ideal way to stay hydrated during travel, hiking, and sightseeing. This kid's water bottle can store in the freezer for extra cold water that melts throughout the day. It comes with a carabiner, for quick attachment to almost any backpack.

While this container is easy enough to wash, it can be difficult to completely dry. This design increases the possibility of mold or bacteria forming inside the bag, so care should be taken to ensure the bag is propped open and thoroughly dried before storing. Also, you'll need to double-check that the lid is on correctly and snapped shut to avoid possible leak issues after filling or ice cube additions. If you want a portable container, that is small, then the "Anti-Bottle" is a good choice for you.

8

Attractive with Innovative Lid


CamelBak Chute Mag


Best Value Award
$16.99
(35% off)
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 12 oz | Weight: 0.6 lbs
Multiple sizes/colors
Magnetic handle lid
Good at preventing leaks
Handwash
Expensive

The Camelbak Chute Mag is a vacuum insulated, stainless steel bottle with an attractive look. The kid's version of this bottle is 12 oz, but it does come in larger sizes if your little one's thirst demands a bigger swig. The Mag comes in a variety of colors that are bright without being annoying, so there is something for everyone, and it is a great way to tell whose bottle is whose. The twist-on lid is great for preventing leaks and was recently updated with improvements to the threads to decrease leaking. The cool magnetic lid connects to the bottle, so it doesn't flop in your face while drinking, which we think is a truly innovative and useful design choice.

The lid for the Mag is dishwasher safe, but the vessel should be hand washed. While this isn't a deal-breaker, and we suggest hand cleaning all of the bottles, it can be annoying for some parents looking for a quicker fix. Because of its shape and size, a bottle brush is the best way to ensure it is clean after each use. This bottle is one of the more expensive options we tested making it a poor choice for parents on a budget, but it should last a long while, and the cost is more reasonable when you consider the longevity of use. When it comes down to leak prevention and innovative design, we were delighted with the overall performance of this bottle.

9

Nice Insulated Stainless Straw Sipper


Thermos FUNtainer Spout



$12.29
(35% off)
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 16 oz | Weight: 0.6 lbs
Good design for cleaning
Keeps contents cold
Good quality
Parts can wear out
Requires lid for leaks

Thermos FUNtainer Spout is a useful combination of double-walled stainless steel insulation, sleek design, and ease of use. The insulation does an excellent job of keeping drinks cold for up to 12 hours (not for hot liquids), and the slender design is just right for little hands and cup holders. The lid button is user-friendly for straw access. The bottle is made with quality materials and feels durable enough to last for several years.

There are more parts to the FUNtainer than most of the competition, but it does come apart easily and can is cleanable with the help of a bottle and straw brush. Even though we like the quality of the container itself, the straw can wear out over time, especially if your little ones like to chew like some of our testers. While the 12 oz style has replacement straws, we were disappointed to see that Thermos does not offer it for the 16 oz bottle. Also, while it does a nice job preventing leaks with a closed lid, water flows freely through the straw with the top open, so it isn't leak-proof. If the button gets pushed while in a bag, you could end up with a wet mess. This bottle is a popular choice thanks to quality construction and ease of use with a variety of optional kid-friendly designs on the bottle.

10

Double Leak Protection


Nalgene OTF



$9.89
(24% off)
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 12 oz | Weight: 0.3 lbs
Seals well
Few parts to clean
Durable
Difficult to close
Top-heavy

Nalgene OTF is Tritan plastic and it is BPA-, BPS-, and phthalate-free. The OTF claims minimal leaking with a top that has a double latch system. This system includes a plastic piece that clicks on the base from the lid and a metal clip that secures it. This vessel has convenient grooves in the bottle to make holding it easier for little hands, and it is also durable and able to withstand drops fairly well. The basic design is convenient for cleaning with few parts and a wide mouth opening for a bottle brush.

This bottle can be challenging to close. Clicking on the top part of the lid to the lower piece can be a pain for an adult, so it is even harder for small hands. It takes more pressure than we would have expected and it only works if you line it up correctly, something little ones may forget to do. While older kids may fair okay, preschoolers may need some assistance. Another concern is that if the bottle is not full and the lid is left open, it will topple over. Despite the functional drawbacks and challenges for younger users, the leak protection that this bottle offers is hard to beat.

11

The Classic Collapsible


Platypus SoftBottle



$7.95
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 0.5 L | Weight: 0.1 lbs
Lightweight & collapsible
Affordable
Easy to store
Not the best for younger kids
Too small for Ice cubes
Harder to clean

The Platypus SoftBottle, available in 0.5 and 1 Liter sizes is a light, collapsible plastic reservoir that comes with a nonattached twist cap or attached push-pull cap (Platypus SoftBottle with Push-Pull Cap). Like the Vapur Shades, it is a great option for outings when you don't want to be weighed down. It stores flat, or you can roll it up in tight spaces. The low cost and weight, make it a great option for little ones who don't want to lug around a heavy bottle in their lunchbox or backpack.

There are a few downsides with this collapsing bottle. One, it can be a bit awkward to drink from as it requires two hands - one for the mouthpiece and the other holding the rest of the bottle. Also, the mouthpiece is too narrow for ice cubes, and it makes cleaning a challenge. While a bottle brush fits through the opening (just barely), it is hard to reach the bottom for scrubbing. So, while a daily rinse is necessary, a deeper clean with baking soda and lemon juice should regularly be done making it one of the higher maintenance options in this review. It will need to be propped open on a bottle rack to dry. For older kids, we recommend trying the Platypus DuoLock SoftBottle which has a more complicated flip cap with a lock. This bottle has a wider opening without the lid and is much easier to clean. It is also larger, and therefore, more appropriate for a kid-size thirst.


Not Recommended: Notably Disappointing


Reduce WaterWeek bottles offer five water bottles for the price of one, which looks like a great deal on the surface. Unfortunately, the bottles emit a strong plastic off-gassing (or outgassing) odor that makes them a product we don't recommend. Off-gassing is the release of volatile organic compounds (VOC's) which are linked to numerous potential health problems and are a result of using certain chemicals during the production of the bottles. Upon opening these bottles, the odor was powerful and offensive. After allowing them time to air out and washing them multiple times, the strong "plastic" smell was still in full effect and ridiculously strong. After filling the bottle with water, we discovered the water became "flavored" with an off taste similar to the smell. Despite the company claiming that the bottles are BPA-free (and possibly phthalate-free), it is off-gassing something as many chemicals outside of BPA can and do. There is definitely a flavor being imparted to the water after it sits in the bottle. These issues give us pause and puts the WaterWeek squarely on our not recommended list. Other chemicals in plastics can cause issues, such as PVC or vinyl and BPS (a substitute for BPA). Some of the potential health concerns linked to plastics include dizziness, nausea, allergies, asthma, endocrine disruption, and cancer. For more information on BPA, phthalates, and PVC, check out the Children's Environmental Health Network or EcoWatch. While research is ongoing about how plastics can affect the human body, there is enough information available to confirm that safety concerns about plastics are valid and something you shouldn't ignore. We prefer to limit children's exposure to these kinds of chemicals whenever possible and encourage parents to strongly consider products made of stainless steel, glass, and silicone over those made of plastic.

Why You Should Trust Us


Our kid's water bottle round-up is led by our founder, Dr. Juliet Spurrier, a Board Certified Pediatrician, a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and a mother of two. Her background and education as a pediatrician, plus experience as a mom, help guide her product selection and approval, as well as developing BabyGearLab's safety and testing standards.

Our water bottle team lead is Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz. Wendy is a mother of two and has a degree in biology with a concentration in chemistry that gives her a unique perspective on water bottle materials and potential concerns over plastics and their associated endocrine disrupters. Wendy has been involved in our sippy cup and water bottle testing since our first water bottle review in 2014, including as an instrumental contributor to testing development early in our review process. Since the beginning, Wendy has researched and reported on over 60 cups and water bottles, and she regularly performs background research related to the use of plastics in products that contain food and liquid for human consumption. Her education, background, and mom time help Wendy choose products for testing with ease of use, safety, and potential for leaks in mind.


How We Evaluated


Finding the perfect kid's water bottle took over 80 hours of research and testing. We considered important factors such as leakage, potential lead exposure, weight, ease of use, and durability. We used the information from our side-by-side testing and at-home use to determine the winners.

Analysis


Our analysis began with in-depth research of over 60 kid's water bottles. Through this investigation, we narrowed the selection down to the top performers. After an evaluation from kids on ease of use and extensive in-house testing, we discovered the ins and outs of what's important when it comes to choosing a great kid's water bottle.

Testing the Simple Modern bottle for lead on the solder spot  which had negative results.
Testing the Simple Modern bottle for lead on the solder spot, which had negative results.

Lead Concerns


We are aware that some parents have discovered lead in several stainless steel water bottles after performing tests on the bottles with at-home test kits. You should know that these results are not true of all stainless steel bottles as steel does not contain lead. The problem appears to stem from a small solder spot on the bottom of some bottles that can become exposed due to the destruction of the bottle's parts (loose bottoms, chipping paint). While manufacturers paint or cap the bottom of the bottles to prevent this spot from being accessible, children can potentially be exposed to lead if the bottom is dislodged or the paint chips. We tested the bottles in our review for lead as a result of these concerns. None of the exposed parts of the bottles tested positive for lead. We did not remove the bottom caps or paint to test underneath.

Safety Tip
We recommend that you take damaged bottles away from children and dispose of them properly as a precaution against lead exposure and other hazards. While we make every effort to choose durable products, all bottles have the potential to become damaged over time through regular use. Parents should inspect all of the parts of their bottles during each cleaning for wear, chewed parts, chipped paint, and other signs of damage. Some parts like straws and mouthpieces might be replaceable depending on the manufacturer, so you may want to check before you recycle it.

The Hydro Flask bottle has capped the bottom of their bottle to cover the solder spot  while Simple Modern has painted over the center solder spot.
The Hydro Flask bottle has capped the bottom of their bottle to cover the solder spot, while Simple Modern has painted over the center solder spot.

Lead exposure causes multiple health issues for humans. Children are more susceptible to lead because their bodies are still developing and because they often put their hands and other objects into their mouths. Exposure to lead often happens as a result of contact with any lead sources, including some paints, older dishes and glass, contaminated soil and water, and other sources including dust particles.

So what are the dangers of lead exposure? According to the EPA, lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body. Lead is stored in bones and tissue, which causes continual exposure and potentially results in anemia, kidney problems, hearing problems, and slowed growth. It is a neurotoxin that can cause everything from headaches and memory loss to lower IQ levels and behavior problems.

The lead test on the left (yellow) shows a negative lead result  while the right (red) shows a positive result.
The lead test on the left (yellow) shows a negative lead result, while the right (red) shows a positive result.

The easiest way to find out if your water bottles contain lead is to purchase a lead check kit. The test is easy to use and takes less than a minute for results. If the test results are positive, you should immediately dispose of the product.

Dirty Dust
Lead has been found in dust particles from unknown sources or as a result of contaminated air from vehicles or industrial uses that travel through the air and settle on surfaces. To reduce your children's potential exposure to lead, it is a good idea to vacuum and dust regularly. Removing your shoes after being outside can also help reduce the likelihood of lead contamination in your home.

Buying Advice


How is a kid's water bottle different than a sippy cup? Why might you need one? Choosing a kids water bottle can be a frustrating task, so you may decide you don't need one to avoid possible disappointment. Let's be honest, most kids can drink out of ordinary cups, so why consider a leak-proof water bottle in the first place when a cup will do?

Multiple choices availble when it comes to which water bottle is right for your family.
Multiple choices availble when it comes to which water bottle is right for your family.

Water bottles can be a useful product for on-the-go hydration. Running from school to soccer practice can build up a thirst, and it can be hard to find a good water fountain or a regular cup that works well while running. Alternatively, having a closeable, leak-proof bottle can give children the freedom to move from place to place with an easy to use, with an accessible drink they can carry in a backpack, stash in the car, or use on the field. Many schools now request that little ones bring water bottles to class to prevent frequent trips to the water fountain and to keep kid's brains working at peak levels. Kid's water bottles give children the feeling of independence and encourage them to drink more water than they might usually consume. This increased consumption helps children stay hydrated, which is a plus for the entire body. In this article, we will help you sort through the different types of bottles and their features, so you can decide which are important to your family and why.

Why Get a Kid's Leak-Proof Bottle?


Kid's water bottles are typically reserved for children over the age of 3. You may wonder why a child this old would need a leak-proof container.

Whether you choose collapsable and lightweight or sturdy and long-lasting  the important factor is to purchase a water bottle that your child will like to use.
Whether you choose collapsable and lightweight or sturdy and long-lasting, the important factor is to purchase a water bottle that your child will like to use.

Using a leak-proof bottle is an easy way to get water in your child while keeping up with their busy schedules. Sending your little one out for a day of adventure with a full water bottle can improve their mood, ability to play, and provide hydration flexibility. With a bottle in hand, you don't need to worry about leaks, dehydration, or the need for locating liquid away from home.

Advantages


  • Hydration — Continual access to water encourages children to stay hydrated for whatever adventures the day brings.
  • Transportability — Bottles are easy to transport and carry because they don't leak and are relatively narrow for smaller spaces. Some can even be attached to a pack or belt.
  • Convenience — Kids can drink whenever they want without looking for a water fountain, waiting to find a beverage, or making an expensive convenience store purchase.

Disadvantages


While there are lots of advantages to using a leak-proof water bottle, there are some disadvantages you should also know.
  • Potential Injury— Bottles often have hard or stiff straw spouts that do not flex. These designs could cause injuries if children fall with the spout in their mouth. While not as worrisome as a toddler learning to walk with a sippy cup in hand, it can still be a concern if children drink while moving.
  • Increased Risk of Dental Decay— Consuming sugary or carbohydrate-rich beverages can increase the risk of dental decay. Drinking from a straw or sport spout can potentially increase liquid consumption and increased sucking from a bottle with a leak-proof valve can increase the potential for the sugars to reach the tooth root system. Limited bottle use to water only will help decrease this concern.

There is something for everyone with the vast array of lids available with your water bottle.
There is something for everyone with the vast array of lids available with your water bottle.

Kid Bottle Design


Kid's bottles are generally larger and hold more liquid than sippy cups. They often have a leak-proof valve or a closeable lid. The body is often insulated and sometimes slightly contoured for easier gripping. The containers typically come in different colors and patterns that encourage children to choose one over another. Some bottles have recognizable characters on the side, while others offer abstract designs or fun pictures. None of the bottles come with handles, but some can connect to a backpack or stroller with a clip. Several bottles have lids or folding spouts to decrease the dirt and debris that will accumulate on the spout. Most of the bottles are easy to clean and assemble/disassemble with fewer parts than sippy cups.

Performance Considerations


Kid's water bottles come in a handful of types which are far less dizzying than sippy cups. Styles include insulated containers, sport tops or straws, and stainless steel or plastic. How each bottle performs and whether or not kids will use them varies depending on the ease of use and leakage. While the differences between bottles seem minimal on the surface, the bottles function differently, and some are more challenging to use than others.

Weight


How heavy a water bottle is and how difficult it is to carry when full are important considerations. Is the bottle going to school in a backpack already full of heavy books? Or will it mostly serve as a spill-proof solution around the house? Is it mainly for sports practice and outdoor activities? How you plan to use the bottle and your little one's abilities, will change how much "weight" you place on the importance of the bottle's total weight.


As you can see, the Platypus SoftBottle and Vapur Shades, both bladder style vessels, are the lightest at 0.1 lbs each when empty. The heaviest option is the glass Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap. Its 1.1 lb heft is only going to get heavier and harder to carry when full of water, which could potentially increase its chance of getting dropped.

Flip tops  straws  twist offs are some of the lid options available.
Flip tops, straws, twist offs are some of the lid options available.

Ease of Use


Bottles should be easy to use. If using a bottle is challenging, then kids won't use it, and you'll have a relatively expensive paperweight or less space in the cupboard. While some little testers preferred bottles in their favorite colors, the products that were easy to drink from eventually won their hearts and were the options they chose regularly.

The lid of the Camelback Chute Mag was easy enough for little hands to untwist.
The lid of the Camelback Chute Mag was easy enough for little hands to untwist.

Ease of Cleaning


Being able to clean your kid's water bottle easily is a big deal. If it takes too much time or requires too many specialized tools to thoroughly clean, you might be tempted to skip washing altogether. Products with fewer parts, such as the Klean Kanteen Insulated Kid Classic, or those that are easy to take apart, are preferable to the options that need straw brushes to clean properly, like the Zulu Torque. A bottle that is convenient to use and clean will become the bottle of choice while harder to use options will end up at the bottom of the bin. In short, we feel parents shouldn't be slaving away in the kitchen after playing chauffeur, chef, mentor, and parent.

The Thermos FUNtainer Spout is easy to clean even though there are multiple parts.
The Thermos FUNtainer Spout is easy to clean even though there are multiple parts.

Most of the kid's water bottles are straightforward to assemble and clean compared to sippy cups. In general, they have fewer parts and go together quickly. Most of the bottles require a bottle brush to properly clean, but only a few need a straw brush, and we suggest parents have both on hand.

Hand-Washing Bottles:
We recommend hand-washing any plastic parts in warm soapy water instead of putting them on the top rack of the dishwasher. In our opinion, this minimizes plastic degradation and lessens the possibility of chemicals leaching into your drink. Also, all insulated containers MUST be hand-washed, as they have a double-walled structure that could potentially trap water, making the insulation ineffective and increasing the opportunity for microbial growth. Any stainless containers with groovy paint should also be hand-washed to prevent peeling. However, if you plan to wash uninsulated stainless in the dishwasher, we suggest going with plain stainless instead of painted.

Bottle Body


The kids' water bottles are all relatively tall and slim, and most fit comfortably into cup holders and little hands with larger capacities over 12 ounces. They do not take up a lot of room in backpacks, and even the insulated varieties are relatively light and easy to transport. Most options require a bottle brush to clean, and some need a straw brush to clean the straws or mouthpieces. These styles are the best for children, thanks to their increased volumes and insulation properties.

Three bottle made of three different materials. Left is the glass Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap  center is the stainless steel Simple Modern Summit  and right is the plastic Zulu Torque.
Three bottle made of three different materials. Left is the glass Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap, center is the stainless steel Simple Modern Summit, and right is the plastic Zulu Torque.

Materials


Kid's bottles come in a few materials including glass, stainless steel, and plastic, many with silicone parts. Some bottles are primarily plastic with silicone parts, while others are stainless steel or glass with plastic lids. When it comes to materials, stainless steel is a more eco-healthy option than plastic and is easier to clean, but the plastic bottles are lighter and less expensive. The material type also impacts how easy the bottles are to use and clean and how long they will potentially last. It is important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each material before deciding which type of bottle to buy.

We encourage you to read more about plastics in our article, Are Plastics Safe for Bottles and Sippy Cups? to learn about the potential problems and concerns related to plastic use in bottles and cups for children. Issues concerning plastic in children's products are significant and worth reviewing before making a buying decision.

The Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap has an easy to grasp silicone sleeve.
The Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap has an easy to grasp silicone sleeve.

Glass


Most kid's bottles refrain from using glass for obvious reasons (drops=breaks). However, they do exist, and we tested one - the Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap. Glass is an inert substance that does not impart chemicals to its contents. It doesn't retain odors or colors from its contents either. Unfortunately, it is breakable, which can be a problem jostling around in a backpack or thrown on a playground. While most glass bottles come with a silicone sleeve for protection from minor bumps and short drops, they won't protect 100%, and the bottles are still potentially breakable.

Stainless Steel


Food grade stainless steel products are an excellent choice for spill-proof bottles for kids on-the-move. Steel doesn't impart chemicals or odors into its contents, is easy to clean, doesn't retain odors, and is durable, and often insulated. Not convinced yet? It is also earth-friendly, eco-healthy, and recyclable.

Klean Kanteen Insulated Kid Classic stainless steel water bottle kept the water icy cold on a sunny day.
Klean Kanteen Insulated Kid Classic stainless steel water bottle kept the water icy cold on a sunny day.

We prefer stainless steel over materials that can potentially leach chemicals into their contents. Given that steel is exceptionally durable and doesn't break, it also rivals glass options. While steel is significantly heavier than plastic and insulated steel is even heavier, we believe the tradeoff is worth it and that most children over the age of three will be able to comfortably hold and carry an insulated bottle with ease.

Steel products bring everything to the table in an economical package durable enough to last for years. They are a healthier alternative to plastic, that is eco-friendly and durable. Klean Kanteen is one of the most eco-friendly bottles in our review, and their website has supportive information on the company's efforts to keep the Earth and your children healthy.

Plastics


Plastic is a common budget-friendly bottle material that creates lightweight, easy to use bottles that are versatile, and user-friendly. These cups often include cool designs and colors that are intriguing to little kids and parents. Parents might consider plastic for budget reasons, while children like the graphics and licensed characters often found on plastic bottles. Unfortunately, plastics have potential eco-health concerns that you'll want to consider seriously before making your final bottle buying decision.

The side grooves on the Nalgene OTF makes it a breeze for little fingers to grasp onto.
The side grooves on the Nalgene OTF makes it a breeze for little fingers to grasp onto.

Given the potential unhealthy properties of plastics, we feel it is essential that parents review the studies and history of plastics. While BPA is no longer being used, that doesn't mean that plastic is always safe. Some studies indicate that many of the BPA-free plastics potentially leach chemicals into their contents; this means that some of the plastics in kid's water bottles may not be any safer than the BPA plastic they replaced.

A study from Environmental Health Perspectives states the following:

In some cases, BPA-free products released chemicals having more EA than did BPA-containing products.

Another study published in Environmental Health found that some plastics still potentially leach estrogenic chemicals .
Many unstressed and stressed PC-replacement-products made from acrylic, polystyrene, polyethersulfone, and Tritan™ resins leached chemicals with EA, including products made for use by babies. Exposure to various forms of UV radiation often increased the leaching of chemicals with EA.

Before you throw away your plastic containers, take a deep breath. The jury is still out on whether or not all plastics are culprits, but we feel that exposure to potentially harmful chemicals should be limited or eliminated whenever possible. The studies we reviewed left us feeling that more research is needed and that parents should proceed with caution. However, given early study results, we recommend stainless steel over plastic when possible.

While the debate continues over plastic safety, we think it is wise to simply take plastic out of the equation by selecting stainless steel options when possible. Even if you're drawn to the lower price of plastic, we believe that steel is a healthier choice that saves money over time thanks to its durability and longevity.

Silicone


Spouts, straws, sleeves, and valves of kid's water bottles are typically silicone. Most of the silicone is medical-grade which is generally considered safer than plastic.

The silicone sleeve on the Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap makes it easier to grasp and provide extra protection if the bottle is dropped.
The silicone sleeve on the Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap makes it easier to grasp and provide extra protection if the bottle is dropped.

The use of silicone keeps parts flexible and decreases the potential for injury. In fairness to plastic, it is only fair to mention that some preliminary studies show that silicone can break down when heated and can release small particles over time. As a result, we encourage you to hand wash silicone parts (or preferably all parts) to help avoid break down of the material.

Parts


Most of the bottles we reviewed have only a few parts and are easy to clean and assemble. A body, lid, and spout/straw are the typical components of kid's bottles with most having three or fewer parts. Some bottles also include a leak-proof valve.

Spouts


There are two basic types of spouts in kid's bottles, hard spouts, and flexible straws. You can find some with a cup-like edge, which is typically just a short or modified hard spout.

Spouts range from hard spouts  to soft silicone straws  to flip caps to open edges.
Spouts range from hard spouts, to soft silicone straws, to flip caps to open edges.

Hard Spouts


Hard spouts are plastic, and may or may not come with a silicone cover. They have little to no flexibility and can cause potential injury if children fall with spouts in their mouths. These hard spouts usually wear well over time and are often resistant to chewing and biting damage, something many children struggle with. While it is mouth-friendly, it is also stiff and unforgiving if a child falls with the spout in their mouth. If you have an aggressive chewer, a hard spout can be irresistible, but you should keep the dangers of this type of spout in mind when looking at potential bottles to buy and set some ground rules about not using the spouts when in motion.

Straws


Flexible straw spouts are less likely to cause injury than their hard spout counterparts and more closely align with the spout style preferred by the ADA. Straws help move the liquid to the back of the mouth, thereby skipping the teeth. As a result, it can potentially decrease the possibility of cavities, improve overall oral hygiene, and lead to less dental decay. The most significant disadvantage to straws is the time and energy required to clean them. Cleaning straws include disassembly, a special brush, and reassembly. Another problem occurs when straws become dislodged from their lids, rendering the bottles somewhat useless without adult help. While not a deal-breaker, it can be frustrating for children who go to drink and get nothing but air.


Cup-like Edge


Some of the products we considered have a cup-like edge. The edge creates a cup-like drinking experience and prevents potential injuries that can occur with harder spouts without the hassle of straw cleaning and maintenance. The only drawback of some of these bottles is the coordination and finger strength it takes to hold down the button that opens the valve at the same time you tip the bottle and drink. With practice, most children can manage the feat, with older children finding more success.

Valves


Valves are the component of leak-proof bottles the prevent leaks. While some valves are challenging to use, none of them are impossible. The problem is you don't know how well a valve works until after you buy it. Unfortunately, reviewing the valve materials or the kind of valve aren't good indicators of whether or not they will be easy to use or even prevent leaks. While the best valves may have things in common, it wasn't until we bought the bottles and used them that we were able to determine which were easy to use and which were a struggle to drink from.

The Contigo AUTOSEAL Trekker has a button on the back that opens the drinking valve.
The Contigo AUTOSEAL Trekker has a button on the back that opens the drinking valve.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that parents choose bottles and cups without leak-proof valves and limit sugary liquids to help avoid dental decay. For more information, please see the ADA article. While choosing a bottle without a leak-proof valve is easier with older children, as most kids over three can close lids to avoid leaks, leak-proof valves are still useful in kid's bottles.

Safety Considerations


Leak-proof bottles can by potentially hazzardous. From 1991 to 2010, approximately 45,000 injuries related to leak-proof cups and bottles presented to the ER.

Get your children used to practicing safe habits while drinking from their water bottle.
Get your children used to practicing safe habits while drinking from their water bottle.
Here are some best practices, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the ADA:
  • Children should only use bottles when stationary
  • Potentially avoid dental decay related to bottle use by only filling bottles with water, NEVER sweetened or carbonated drinks
  • To avoid potential issues with decay and dentition formation, limit water bottles for outings only
  • Parents should always provide a real cup when it is convenient

While it is smart to remember the ADA guidelines, we believe leak-proof bottles provide a valuable service for kids on the go. Because water bottles help keep children hydrated on the go, they provide a service unmatched by a regular cup. With features designed with travel and convenience in mind, these bottles have earned a place in the lives of busy children. Using regular cups at mealtimes and home will offset some of the potential issues related to the kid's bottle.

So many decisions to make when finding the right water bottle for your children.
So many decisions to make when finding the right water bottle for your children.

How to Choose the Best Kid's Water Bottle


Choosing the right kid's water bottle doesn't need to be a daunting experience if you follow some basic tips to narrow down the choices based on a few key considerations.

First, Choose a Body Material


Bottle body material is a significant factor to consider when choosing a kid's bottle. Given the potential health concerns about plastics and the benefits of insulated containers, we feel bottle material is important. Also, it can help narrow the field of possible options quickly by eliminating lots of products based on the material alone.

We think that stainless steel has the most benefits for children. Steel is eco-friendly and healthy for humans. It does not leach chemicals or impart flavor, and it is easy to clean and extremely durable. Stainless steel lasts for years and is fully recyclable, and it is easy to find in insulated versions. Our favorite water bottles are stainless steel. While stainless steel is often more expensive and heavier than plastic, we feel the additional cost and heft are justified given the health and environmental benefits and the duration the bottle is likely to last.

Next, Pick a Spout


The second most important consideration for kid's water bottles is the bottle's spout. Considering the injury potential and the ADA concerns related to hard spouts, we think it makes sense to choose a softer straw spout or a cup-like edge. Also, the bottles with a flexible straw spout are easier to use than many of the hard spouts. Screw-Off lids can be challenging for younger users, but it helps that most of the options we considered are connected to the bottles, so there is less chance of losing it.


Last, Choose Insulated or Non-Insulated


Insulated bottles are a great option and offer more potential than their non-insulated counterparts. Having cold water during soccer practice might be the ticket to feeling energized and refreshed. Even if insulation isn't desired or required, it usually isn't a hindrance. The only real downside to insulation is that it creates a havier bottle than non-insulated competitors.

Conclusion


The number of water bottles on the market can feel endless, and it can be challenging to determine the differences between the various options. We dug through the details to find the best bottles with the most useful features that are kid-approved and don't leak to help you choose the best water bottle for your child.


Juliet Spurrier, MD and Lindsay Selig