In today's busy world, with kids participating in more activities away from home than ever, it is important that they have access to hydration at all times. Carrying a personal water bottle can mean the difference between quenching a mean thirst or fighting fatigue. We reviewed 11 of the most popular water bottles for children over the age of 3 to find which performed better than the rest and won approval from persnickety children on the go. The bottles were tested for their ease of use, tendency to leak, eco-health attributes, and more. While most of the bottles got the job done, only a few did it well, and only one soared above the rest with an overall score 13 points higher than the closest competitor.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Water Bottle
Contigo AUTOSEAL Kids Scout
Read review: Contigo AUTOSEAL
Top Pick for Preschoolers
Thermos Foogo Insulated Straw Bottle
Read review: Thermos Foogo Insulated Straw Bottle
Best for Specific Applications
Larger Volume for Longer Adventures
The Kid Basix Safe Sporter is stainless steel bottle that we really liked. It is easy to use and holds more liquid than any other bottle in our review. This bottle came in 4th place out of 11 in our review, and its only real downside is its heavier weight. What makes this a standout product, besides being easy to drink from, easy to clean, and eco-healthy, is it can hold up to 16 ounces of liquid all for a comparatively cheap price. The larger size of this bottle means kids have more water for hydration for greater adventures or longer trips from home. Though technically not insulated, the nice grip-able silicone sleeve offers some insulation, and there is an attached lid for keeping the spout clean when not in use.
Read review: Kid Basix Safe Sporter
Analysis and Test Results
Leak-free kid's bottles are for children ages 3 years and up. Kids in this age range are busy, active, and seem to have no off button. By 3 years old kids can drink from ordinary cups, and they are mastering new skills every day. With so many activities to attend and new adventures in school and friend's houses, having an easy to transport water bottle can make life much easier and children far happier than looking for a water fountain or trying to find a place to set down a regular cup. Being able to transport a bottle from here to there without spills can make life easier wherever your child's adventures may lead.
Types of Kid's Bottles
There is definitely less variety in kid's water bottles than some of the other stages of leak-proof cups. These bottles had far more in common than their sippy counterparts. Most of the bottles are at least 12 ounces, have a loop for attaching to backpacks, lids for keeping off the dirt, and many were insulated to keep contents cool and viable for longer periods of time. These bottles are also taller and relatively narrow so they fit better in cup holders and in little hands.
Leak-Free Cups and Bottles
The photos above show a plastic bottle and two of the stainless steel options used in this review.
The photos above show some different leak-free cups; the Transition cup for 4-9 months (left), Toddler for 9 months - 3 years (middle), and Kid's Water Bottles for ages 3 and up (right).
Leak-proof cups and bottles are divided by age ranges that normally compliment developmental stages and children's capabilities. Following the suggested age range can help you find right product for your child.
Transition cups typically have soft spouts for sensitive gums, dual handles, and are smaller than the other options.
Toddler cups usually feature soft and hard spouts, or straws. These cups are normally contoured, lack handles, and hold more liquid than the transition stage.
Kid water bottles are usually designed with kids age 3 to 6 years in mind. They normally hold over 12 ounces of liquid, are insulated, have lids, and are easy to transport. Some are leak proof, but not all have this feature without using their lids.
Most Kid's water bottles are made of plastic or stainless steel. Older kids using water bottles on the go are not the best candidates for using glass bottles. Each kind of material can have benefits and drawbacks depending on what you are looking for and what is most important to you. We think parents should consider the attributes of each kind of material before making a buying decision.
You may want to check out our related article, Are Plastics Safe for Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups?
injury. In addition, the Eco Vessel bottles had soft covers on their hard spouts that were easily damaged and become possible choking hazards for children who like to chew.
Soft straw spouts are similar to regular straws and are
Contigo AutoSeal has a cup like edge with an autoseal opening that allows liquid to come out when the button is pushed to open the lid. This lets kids control their own flow rate and it helps avoid possible injury that can occur as a result of a hard spout that sticks straight up.
ADA and AAP Best Practice Guidelines
The following are best practices for leak-proof cup and bottle use, as advised by the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). These have been modified somewhat from the sippy cup guidelines for older kids and water bottle use:
Criteria for Evaluation
We considered several performance features and attributes when testing and evaluating each kid's water bottle. We looked at ease of use, leakage, ease of cleaning, and eco-health. Each category was then broken up into smaller sub-metrics for more in-depth testing and detailed information gathering.
If a bottle is going on a journey it needs to be leak free. If kids are taking
Four bottles out of the 11 in our review scored 10 of 10 in the collective leakage score. But only the Contigo AutoSeal scored a perfect 10 by receiving 10s in both the sideways and upside down tests. Most of the bottles scored above a 7 with only the Crocodile Creek Drinking Bottle and Eco Vessel Frost scoring lower with a 4 and 1 respectfully. The Frost leaked freely in both tests, essentially giving up its entire contents without any indication that is leak proof at all. While we loved that the Frost is insulated, the fact that it leaked in the same way as an ordinary cup gave us pause.
Ease of Use
Bottles should definitely be easy to use. There is no use in owning a bottle that is difficult to drink from or hard to handle. If kids don't enjoy using the bottle then they won't, and you'll be left with a relatively expensive paperweight, or something that takes up space in the cupboard. While many little testers were drawn to the bottles that had the most fun graphics or characters they recognized, it was the bottles that were easy to drink from that ended up the most used. At least one of the bottles was so hard to drink from that even adults struggled with getting water out and it ended up being the one bottle that no one wanted to drink from. While many of the metrics might feel more important than how hard it is to drink from, this metric is arguably the most important because the rest doesn't matter if your children won't use the bottles to begin with.
Nalgene Grip N Gulp earned the lowest score for the ease of use metric. Even though it is lightweight and fairly easy to hold, the no-leak value and small spout openings made this bottle nearly impossible to drink from. It scored only a 4 of 10 in our tests, and most of those points were earned for being easy to pick up as opposed to easy to drink from. The Crocodile also struggled in this metric earning just a 5 for ease of use, and a 2 for ease of sucking. The Contigo earned the highest score in this metric with a 9 of 10, losing points for being heavy, but getting a perfect 10 for ease of drinking. While the Contigo had a great drinking mechanism, and offers a nice personal flow rate with an open spout, some younger user had trouble pushing in the button at the same time as sipping.
Ease of Cleaning
Most of the kid's water bottles were simpler than the sippy cups to assemble and clean. In general, they have fewer parts and are easier to assemble than
The Contigo once again walked away the leader earning a 9 of 10 in this category. The Klean Kanteen Kids Sports Bottle also did well in this metric with an 8 and only 2 parts. Both Thermos offerings did poorly in this metric scoring only 3 of 10. Theses bottles had a few more parts than the other bottles in the review and it took us a little longer to disassemble them. They also both require the use of straw brush to clean their straws. However, the Camelbak Eddy scored the lowest in this metric with a 2. The valve and straw were harder to clean and assemble.
We almost can't say enough about how important eco-health is to us. With all of the chemicals and potential toxins we come into contact with everyday, we think it is important to limit the ones we can. Given children's sensitive developing systems it makes sense to do what you can to limit exposure to possibly harmful substances when possible. We think it is important to give consideration to health as well as the environment when making buying decisions for our children. Possibly one of the most important category of products for this concern is anything that holds consumables. This is why we gave higher scores for products made of inert materials like stainless steel, or to products that were made with recyclable materials or from recycled materials.
How to Choose the Best Sippy Cup for a Toddler article or our Are Plastics Safe for Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups?.
Bottles also earned points for eco-health by being insulated and not requiring hands on mouthpieces to operate. Insulated bottles can keep contents cooler and viable for a longer period of time should the bottle be full of something other than water. Mouthpieces that didn't need hands to open were considered more hygienic than those that needed little germy hands to operate, and bottles with lids earned even more points by protecting spouts from dirt and germs while in transit.
None of the bottles earned a perfect 10 score, but the Thermos Foogo Insulated Straw Bottle and the Thermos Funtainer both earned 9 of 10 for eco-health. Both bottles are stainless steel, insulated, use little plastic, have attached lids, and can be used without touching the mouthpiece. The Contigo, Bubba Hero Sport, and the Eco Vessel Frost all earned 8 of 10 for their nods to eco-health. The lowest scores in this metric went to the Camelbak and the Nalgene which each earned 3s. Both bottles are made entirely of plastic, are not insulated, and neither come with lids.
Buying Advice article explains more in depth what you might want to consider when making your decision.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.