The Best Kids Water Bottle

With kids participating in more activities away from home than ever, it is essential that they have consistent access to hydration. Carrying a personal water bottle can mean the difference between quenching a mean thirst or fighting fatigue. With years of experience using lots of different bottles and styles, we are uniquely poised to test and research products to find the best of the best. Though kids water bottles have seen significant improvements in the last few years, some options are definitely better than others. We've compiled a useful set of recommendations to help you narrow down the products to find the best for your active kiddos. We also include buying advice to assist you in your search. Read on for our top picks.
 
Review by:
Juliet Spurrier, MD and Lindsay Selig

Last Updated:
Tuesday
June 12, 2018

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1

Best Overall: Bells & Whistles


Hydro Flask Kids Wide Mouth


Editors' Choice Award

$48.00
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 12 oz | Weight: 0.6 lbs
Double walled vacuum 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 broader dimensions frustrating because it isn't compatible with most cup holders (think car and bike holders). Also, it is the most expensive water bottle we tested making it a poor choice for parents on a strict budget. However, the flask is designed to last, and they offer a lifetime guarantee, which means the price may be worth it if your budget allows. Overall, the insulated steel design with straw lid makes this option an all-around excellent water bottle.

2

A Classic Reinvented


Klean Kanteen Insulated Kid Classic


Editors' Choice Award

$24.63
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 their 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 Sport Cap may be worth purchasing for use with this insulated water bottle as just a twist off lid is included. If screwed on too tight, the twist off lid can prove to be challenging to remove and also invites spills. In addition, 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, we also invite you to check out the lighter Klean Kanteen Kid Classic Sport. While not insulated, the 12-ounce Classic includes the Sport Cap with silicone spout and is easier for little ones to manage.

3

Best Value: Stainless Insulation with 2 Lids


Simple Modern Summit



$18.99
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 18 oz | Weight: 0.7 lbs
Durable
Includes two lids
Priced well
Average insulation performance
Heavy
The Simple Modern Summit is a great insulated stainless steel water bottle available in sizes from 14 to 64 oz in great 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 with an affordable price.

4

Great Value Insulated Stainless


CamelBak Chute Mag


Best Value Award

$16.99
(35% off)
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 12 oz | Weight: 0.6 lbs
Multiple sizes and colors
Magnetic handle lid
Good at preventing leaks
Hand wash
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.

5

Best Bang for Your Buck: Lightweight & Leakproof


Contigo AUTOSEAL Trekker


Best Value Award

$6.50 each (in 2-pack)
(46% off)
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 14 oz | Weight: 0.2 lbs
Leakproof/Spillproof
Lightweight
Dishwasher safe
The button can be difficult
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.

6

Great Glass Option


Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap


Top Pick Award

$22.66
(9% off)
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 16 oz | Weight: 1.1 lbs
Nice silicone protector
No concerns about leaching
Dishwasher safe
Lid struggles to stay shut
Can be prone to leaks
Heavy
The Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap comes in multiple bright colors and various sizes. The glass bottle has a medical grade 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 didn't stay closed. Others feel the cap is easily nudged open in a bag which results in leaking. There are also reports that the lid 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.

7

Lightweight Straw Sipper


Zulu Torque


Top Pick Award

$9.99
(33% off)
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 16 oz | Weight: 0.4 lbs
Durable
Lid locks
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.

8

Collapsible with Caribeener


Vapur Shades


Top Pick Award

$9.79
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 0.5 L | Weight: 0.1 lbs
Lightweight
Attachable
Great for travel
Difficult to dry
Leak issues
If you are looking for a compact, lightweight water bottle from 0.5 to 1.5 L, Vapur Shades may be the one you've been waiting for. 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 carabineer, 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 fully dried before storing. Also, you'll need to double check that the lid is on properly and snapped shut to avoid possible leak issues after filling or ice cube additions. If you want a portable container, that doesn't take up much space and won't be excess baggage, then the "Anti-Bottle" is a good choice for your little ones.

9

Nice Insulated Stainless Straw Sipper


Thermos FUNtainer Spout



$19.99
at Amazon
See It

Volume: 16 oz | Weight: 0.6 lbs
Comes apart easily to clean
Keeps contents cold
Good quality
Parts can wear out
Lid must be closed to avoid 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 be thoroughly cleaned 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 while the lid is snapped shut, water flows freely through the straw when the lid is open, so it isn't truly leak-proof. If the button gets pushed while in a bag, you could be left 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.

Also, check out the Thermos FUNtainer Straw.

10

Double Leak Protection


Nalgene OTF



$9.61
(26% 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 is designed for 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 difficult 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 it is lined 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
Better for older kids
Ice cubes don't fit
Difficult 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 be done regularly 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 cap and is much easier to clean. It is also larger and therefore more appropriate for a kid-size thirst.

Notably Disappointing


Reduce WaterWeek



$3.00 each (in 5-pack)
(85% off)
at Amazon
See It

Reduce WaterWeek bottles seem like a great buy with five water bottles for the price of one. Unfortunately, these bottles have a strong plastic off-gassing (or outgassing) odor making them a product we don't recommend. Off-gassing refers to the release of VOC's (volatile organic compound) which have been linked to numerous potential health problems and come from the use of various chemicals. When we opened these bottles the smell was extremely strong and offensive. After letting them air out and washing them several times, the strong "shower curtain" smell was still in full effect and ridiculously strong. While the company states that the bottles are BPA (and possibly phthalate-free), it is definitely off-gassing something, and this gives us pause and puts the WaterWeek on our not recommended list. There are other chemicals in plastics that can cause issues, such as PVC or vinyl and BPS (a substitute for BPA). Some of the potential health concerns that have been linked to plastics, in general, 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 on how plastics affect the human body, enough information is available to confirm that the concerns about plastics are valid. We prefer to limit children's exposure to these kinds of chemicals whenever possible.


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 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 11 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 water bottle for your kids.

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


It has come to our attention that some parents have discovered lead in several stainless steel water bottles after performing tests on the bottles with at-home test kits. These results are not true of all stainless steel bottles as steel does not contain lead, rather the problem seems to steam from a small solder spot on the bottom of some bottles that can become exposed due to changes in the bottle's structure (loose bottoms, chipping paint). While companies paint or cap the bottom to prevent this spot from being accessed during normal use, little ones can be potentially exposed to lead if the bottom comes off or the paint chips. None of the exposed parts of the bottles in this review tested positive for lead. We did not remove the bottom caps or paint to test underneath.

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 can cause 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 can happen as a result of contact with any lead source 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 can linger 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 the ground. To reduce your children's exposure to lead, it is best to vacuum and dust regularly. Removing your shoes after being outside can also help reduce the likelihood of lead contamination in your home.

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? Will it be primarily a spill-proof solution around the house? Or 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. The heaviest option is definitely the glass Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap, separated by 0.4 lbs from the next closest competitor. Its 1.1 lb heft is only going to get heavier and harder to carry when full of water.

Buying Advice


What makes a kid's water bottle different than a standard sippy cup, and why do you need one? Choosing a kids water bottle can be such a frustrating task that you might decide you don't need one just to avoid a possible headache. Let's be honest, most kids can drink out of ordinary cups, so why should a parent consider a leak-proof water bottle?

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 for all children. 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, accessible drink they can carry in a backpack, stash in the car, or use on the field. Kid's water bottles give children the feeling of independence and encourage them to drink more water than they might usually consume. In this article, we will help you sort through the different types of cups and their features that help you decide which might be important and why.

Why Get a Kid's Leak-Proof Bottle?


Kid's water bottles are usually for children over the age of 3. You may wonder why a child this old would need a leak-proof cup. Since the American Dental Association (ADA) aren't big fans of the traditional sippy cup, it stands to reason that you would want to limit or avoid leak-proof cups. While it is a good idea to use an ordinary cup for meals and sitting at a table, it can be challenging to use a regular cup in the car or during play.

Whether you choose collapsable and lightweight or sturdy and long-lasting  the important factor is to purchase a water bottle to keep your kids hydrated.
Whether you choose collapsable and lightweight or sturdy and long-lasting, the important factor is to purchase a water bottle to keep your kids hydrated.

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 away from home. 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 — Regular access to water encourages children to stay hydrated for whatever adventures the day may bring.
  • 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 or waiting to find them a beverage or make a purchase.

Disadvantages


  • Potential Injury— Bottles often have hard or straw spouts that are not flexible. This design could lead to injury should children fall while sipping. While this is not as worrisome as sippy cups and toddlers who a still learning to walk, it can be a problem if children drink while running or moving.
  • Increased Risk of Dental Decay— Ingesting sugary or carbohydrate liquids can increase the risk of dental decay. Drinking through a straw or sport spout can potentially increase consumption and sucking from a leak-proof cup can increase the potential for sugars to reach the root system of the teeth.

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 normally have a leak-proof valve or a closeable lid. The body is often insulated or slightly contoured for easy holding. The containers normally come in a variety of colors and patterns that entice children to use them. Some include recognizable characters, while others offer patterns and pictures that are fun. None of the bottles have handles, but some have a place to attach a clip for easy connection to backpacks or strollers. Several of them come with lids or folding spouts to help decrease the amount of dirt and debris that can 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 only a few varieties which aren't as dizzying as sippy cups. Varieties include insulated containers, sport tops or straws, and stainless steel or plastic. How each option performs and whether or not kids will use them varies. While the differences between bottles seem minimal on the surface, the bottles function differently, and some are harder to use than others.

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 with their favorite colors, the products that were easy to drink from ended up being used the most.

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 the bottle is kind of a big deal. If it takes too much time or requires too many specialized tools to fully 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 for any event. 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 more straightforward to assemble and clean than sippy cups. In general, they have fewer parts and are easier to assemble than the sippy cups. Most of the bottles require a bottle brush to properly clean, but only a few need a straw brush.

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 tall and slim, and they fit comfortably into cup holders and little hands with 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 increase 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 different types of materials including glass, stainless steel, and plastic, many with silicone parts. Some bottles are mostly plastic with a few 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 they are easier to clean, but the plastic bottles are lighter and less expensive. The kind of materials used can also impact how easy the bottles are to use and clean, and how long they will potentially last. It is important to understand and consider the benefits and drawbacks of each type of material before deciding on what kind of bottle to buy.

We encourage you to read our article on plastics 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


Not many kid's bottles use glass for obvious breakage concerns. While they do exist, we only tested one - the Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap. Glass is an inert substance that does not impart chemicals to its contents, but it is breakable which could be a problem jostling around in a backpack or on a playground. While most have a silicone sleeve for additional protection, this won't protect 100%, and the bottles are still potentially breakable.

Stainless Steel


Food grade stainless steel containers are a great option for spill-proof bottles for older kids on-the-go. Steel doesn't impart chemicals or odors into its contents, and it is easy to clean, durable, and often insulated. Not convinced? 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 steel over other materials that can potentially leach chemicals into their contents. Given that steel is extremely durable and doesn't break, it also rivals the glass option in materials. While steel is heavier than plastic and insulated steel is even heavier, we think the tradeoff is worth it and that most children over the age of three can comfortably hold and carry the insulated cups with relative ease.

If you are looking for a healthier alternative to plastic bottles and cups, that is also eco-friendly and durable, the steel cups bring everything to the table in an economical package that can last for years. Klean Kanteen offers one of the most eco-friendly bottles in our review, and their website has interesting information on how the company works to keep the Earth as health as your children.

Plastics


Plastic is a common budget-friendly bottle material that creates lightweight easy to use bottles and cups that are versatile and user-friendly. These cups often have fun and exciting patterns and colors that are attractive to kids and parents alike. Many parents may be drawn to plastic for budget reasons while children like them for the bright graphics and recognizable characters. Unfortunately, plastic has some potential eco-health concerns that parents should consider before choosing which bottle to buy.

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 important for parents to review the available studies and history of plastics. While BPA is no longer being used, that doesn't mean that plastic is necessarily safe. Some studies indicate that many of the BPA-free plastics can potentially leach chemicals into their contents; this means that some of the plastics in kid's water bottles may not be 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 toss all your plastic containers and bottles, take a breath. The jury is still out on whether or not all plastics are a problem. However, we feel that exposure to chemicals should be limited or eliminated whenever possible, and the studies we reviewed left us feeling that more research is needed and that parents should proceed with caution.

While the debate continues on plastic safety, we think it is best to take plastic out of the equation by choosing stainless steel whenever possible. Even if the lower price of plastic is appealing, we feel that steel is a healthier option that can save you money over time thanks to its durability and longevity.

Silicone


Spouts, straws, sleeves, and valves of kid's water bottles are usually silicone. Most of the silicone is medical grade and 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 helps keep parts flexible and decreases the potential for injury. In fairness to plastic, it is only fair to mention that some preliminary studies on silicone show that the material can break down when heated and it can release small particles over time. Given this potential, we encourage parents to hand wash silicone parts (or preferably all parts) to be safe.

Parts


Most of the bottles we reviewed had a limited number of parts. Unlike sippy cups, the kid's bottles had far fewer parts, and most of them were easy to clean and assemble. A body, lid, and spout/straw are the most common components of kid's bottles with most products having three or fewer parts. Some also have additional leak-proof valves.

Spouts


There are primarily only two kinds of spouts in kid's bottles, hard spouts, and flexible straws; though there are some with a cup-like edge.

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 some have a silicone cover. They have little to no give and could cause potential injury if children fall while using them. These spouts tend to wear well over time, and some of them are resistant to chewing and biting damage. While it is mouth friendly, it is stiff and unforgiving if fallen on. If you have an aggressive chewer, you should keep this in mind when looking at potential bottles to buy.

Straws


Flexible straw spouts have an advantage over hard spouts because they are less likely to cause injury and more closely align with the spout preferred by the ADA and most dentists. Straws can help move liquid to the back of the mouth, bypassing the teeth, and therefore, potentially decreasing cavities, better overall oral hygiene, and less dental decay. The most significant disadvantage to straws is the increased time and energy it takes to clean them with special straw brushes and the process of assembling and disassembling. The other problem we experienced was some of the straws dislodged from their lids rendering the bottles somewhat useless without adult help. While not necessarily a deal breaker, it can certainly be frustrating to little ones who want a drink and can't get the straw to work.


Cup-like Edge


Some of the bottles we looked at had a cup-like edge. This edge allows for a more cup-like drinking experience and prevents possible injury from a harder spout without the hassle of straw cleaning and maintenance. The only drawback of some of this cup style was the coordination required in holding down the button that opened the valve for drinking at the same time as actual drinking.

Valves


Valves are an important component of leak-proof bottles; without them, most bottles would leak. Some of the valves were harder to use than others, but none were impossible. The problem with valves is it is hard to know if one will work until after you buy it. Looking at materials or the kind of valve a bottle has is not a good indicator of whether or not it will work or be user-friendly. While the nice valves might have some things in common, it wasn't until we bought and used them that we could determine which were easy to use and which failed to give up their goods.

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.

Parents should consider that the American Dental Association prefers that children NOT be continually sucking beverages through a leak-proof valve. The ADA prefers that parents choose bottles and cups with no 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 certainly easier with older children than toddlers, given that most children over three can learn to close lids to avoid leaks, it might still be useful for the bottle to have a leak-proof valve.

Safety Considerations


Leak-proof bottles can present a potential hazard. From 1991 to 2010, about 45,000 injuries presented to the ER related to the use of leak-proof cups and bottles.
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 be stationary
  • To avoid dental decay bottles should only contain water, NEVER sweetened or carbonated drinks
  • To avoid potential problems related to decay and dentition formation, kids should use water bottles for short periods, and use a regular cup most of the time
  • Parents should offer kids a real cup when it is convenient to do so

While it is important to consider the ADA guidelines and concerns, we think there is a place for leak-proof bottles in most children's lives. Given the benefit of increased hydration on the go, kid's water bottles offer something an ordinary cup can't match, and they can have a place in the life of your busy child. Providing a regular cup at meals times and home can offset some of the potential problems or concerns of using a 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


Finding the best water bottle for your child doesn't have to be a traumatizing experience if you following some basic guidelines and narrow down your options based on a few key considerations.

First, Choose a Body Material


Body material is one of the significant factors in choosing a kid's bottle. Given the potential health concerns surrounding plastics, and the benefits of insulated containers, bottle material is an important variable. Also, it can help narrow the field of possible options quickly by eliminating many products based on material alone.

We feel a stainless steel bottle body offers the most benefits to children. Steel is eco-friendly as well as 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. Also, many of the steel options come in an insulated variety. Our favorite water bottles are stainless steel. While stainless steel is usually more expensive and more substantial than plastic, we feel the extra cost and weight is justifiable given the health and environmental benefits and the duration the bottle is likely to last.

Next, Pick a Spout Type


Possibly the second most important consideration for kids water bottles is the kind of spout it sports. If you consider the potential for injury and the ADA concerns related to hard spout bottles it makes sense that a soft straw spout or a cup-like edge would be a preferable option. Also in our review, the cups with the flexible straw spouts were also easier to use than some of the hard spouts. Screw off lids can be difficult for younger users, but it does help that most of the ones we looked at stayed attached to the bottle to decrease the 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 just what your child needs to feel energized and refreshed. Even if insulation isn't desired or required, it usually isn't a hindrance. The only real downside to insulation is it creates a bottle that is heavier than the non-insulated varieties.

Conclusion


The number of water bottles out there may seem endless, and at first glance, it may be difficult to tell the difference between your choices. We dug through the details to find which bottles had the most useful features and which ones are kid approved in the hope that it will help you choose the best water bottle for your child.
Juliet Spurrier, MD and Lindsay Selig


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