In-depth reviews guided by a Pediatrician

The Best Kids Water Bottle

The Contigo AUTOSEAL Trekker has a unique spout system that only opens when you push the button on the back of the lid.
By Juliet Spurrier, MD and BabyGearLab Review Team
Tuesday August 4, 2020
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Need a kids' water bottle? We've researched, purchased, and tested more than 30 contenders before selecting the top 12 water bottles of 2020. To find the best, we evaluated each one for essential factors like leakage, potential lead exposure, weight, ease of use, durability, and more. Keeping your child hydrated while on-the-go is vital, and a water bottle certainly helps this effort. We are confident there is a water bottle here that will fit your needs and budget, plus take advantage of our buying advice.

1

Best Overall Kids Water Bottle


Hydro Flask Kids Wide Mouth


Editors' Choice Award
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$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

The HydroFlask Kids Wide Mouth is an insulated stainless steel water bottle that does a superb job at keeping liquids cold all day long thanks to its double-wall vacuum insulation. Plus, this smart-looking water bottle is durable. The HydroFlask is top-rack dishwasher safe. However, we recommend handwashing it for longevity. Thanks to its wide-mouth design, cleaning with a bottle brush like the Munchkin Bottle and Nipple Brush should be a breeze. As for the straw, we suggest a small brush for better cleaning. The straw lid version only comes in a 12-ounce size, a volume that perhaps is most compatible with younger children. For older children who are bouncing around to and from sporting events or activities, a larger size may be a better choice. In this case, HydroFlask offers a larger size, but with a Flex Cap or Hydro Flip lid.

One drawback is that this water bottle may not always be compatible with most cup holders (think car and bike holders). Also, it is one of the most expensive water bottles in our review, a factor to consider for those on a tight budget. Despite these factors, we find this insulated stainless steel water bottle with a straw lid to be hands-down, an all-around excellent kid water bottle. Plus, Hydroflask is built to last and has a lifetime guarantee, which means this kid water bottle is arguably worth the price of admission if your budget allows.

2

A Classic Reinvented


Klean Kanteen Insulated Kid Classic


Editors' Choice Award
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$25.95
(4% off)
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

For kids with on-the-go lifestyles, the stainless steel Klean Kanteen Insulated Kid Classic will keep contents cold or hot for an extended period while you bounce around from one activity to the next. The insulated design makes the bottle sweatproof, so your bottle won't be sweating more than your kids after playing in the summer sun. Also, Klean Kanteen has recently updated its design to make the exterior more chip-resistant than the old version. We appreciate that Klean Kanteen continues to use eco-friendly practices, plus create and improve products that will last.

This water bottle features a twist-off lid, and if screwed on too tight, it can be challenging to remove. Plus, if you have to wrestle it off, it can invite spills. As an alternative to the twist-off lids, we are sure you will appreciate the Klean Kanteen Sports Cap 3.0 for its ease of operation, especially concerning younger children. But, it is a purchase in addition to the water bottle. Also, the insulated Klean Kanteen doesn't feature a silicone boot, so even with improvements to its finish, dents and paint chips will happen over time. In total, this is a water bottle with excellent insulation 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
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$15.99
(11% 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 an insulated stainless steel water bottle available in a range of attractive powder-coated colors, along with sizes (14 to 64 oz). 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 appreciate about the Summit is its functional 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 others in 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 steel product that is durable, yet affordable.

4

Best Plastic Bottle


Contigo AUTOSEAL Trekker


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

Volume: 14 oz | Weight: 0.2 lbs
Leak-proof/Spill-proof
Lightweight
Dishwasher safe
Difficult button
Can break easily

The Contigo AUTOSEAL Trekker is an excellent solution for kids that tend to spill (which is all kids, right?). This kid water bottle has a unique and innovative spout system that requires the child to push a button on the back of the lid to open and release the liquid to drink. This design means no accidents or spills from a lid that isn't screwed back on or leaking from a straw, making this option perfect for car rides, couch sitting, backpacks, or a nighttime sip of water. Kids love them because they are a step-up from a sippy cup, plus lightweight and easy to carry. 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.

In our hands-on testing, it was apparent that this product takes some coordination and could be challenging for younger kids to manage. Children with smaller or weaker hands might struggle to apply enough pressure on the button and drink simultaneously. Our four-year-old tester was a pro in minutes after being shown what to do, but the three-year-old tester had more difficulty and sometimes grew too frustrated to bother. This bottle may have durability issues as we found several reports of the bottle breaking. The body is plastic and should hold up reasonably well, but drops at the right angle could damage it. If you are looking for a thirst-quenching, spill-proof option, 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 not included in the recall.

5

Our Favorite Glass Bottle


Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap


Top Pick Award
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$19.99
(13% off)
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-grade silicone sleeve, which adds a layer of protection to the bottle and helps prevent breakage from accidental drops. The silicone sleeve provides a grip-able surface for young 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.

There have been a few complaints about the Lifefactory, primarily related to lid issues. Users report that over time the lid doesn't stay closed, that the cap can be easily nudged open in a bag resulting in leakage, and that the cover drips even when adequately attached and sealed. Also, weighing over a pound, this water bottle is one of the heftiest in the group. It could be difficult for some younger users to carry or lug around in a backpack. But, 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
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$9.99
(33% off)
at Amazon
See It

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

The 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, an added layer of protection from accidental dropping or falls. The lid conveniently locks to prevent unintentional opening when carried in a bag or backpack.

A drawback of this water bottle is its lack of insulation, and this 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. It is helpful to lock the bottle while not in use to help keep this from happening. The Zulu is a decent option for kids who want a straw spout without the heft of a stainless steel bottle.

7

Best for Travel and Hiking


Vapur Shades


Top Pick Award
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$9.69
(3% 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 kid water bottle from 0.5 to 1.5 L, the Vapur Shades maybe what you want. We tested the 0.5 L size, which weighs only 0.1 lbs, making it an ultra-light option that is perfect for on-the-go uses. We recommend the 0.7 to 1-liter size for ages 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, skiing, hiking, and sightseeing. This kid 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 product is easy to wash, we stress the importance of the water bottle drying entirely before storing it. If the drying step is forgotten or not thorough, there is an increased risk of mold or bacteria forming inside the bag. Propping the bag open is helpful. Also, double-check that the lid is on correctly and snapped shut to avoid potential leakage. If you want a small and portable container for your next adventure, this unique, innovative "anti-bottle" is an attractive choice.

8

Attractive with Innovative Lid


CamelBak Chute Mag


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$14.45
(44% 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 water bottle that comes in a variety of fun, bright colors. The kid version of this bottle is 12 ounces, but if your little one's thirst demands a bigger swig, larger sizes are available. The twist-on lid is great for preventing leaks, and it was recently updated with improvements to the threads to decrease leaking. Also, this water bottle showcases an innovative feature that others in the competition do not have, a magnetic lid that connects to the bottle, so it doesn't flop in your face while drinking. We genuinely appreciate this useful design choice.

The lid for the Mag is dishwasher safe, but the bottle should be hand-washed, and due to its shape and size, a bottle brush is the best way to ensure it is thoroughly clean. While handwashing isn't a deal-breaker, and we suggest hand cleaning for all bottles, it can be a bothersome step for some parents who are crunched for time and appreciate a quicker fix. Another drawback is that this bottle is one of the more expensive options we tested, making it a poor choice for parents on a budget. However, it should last a long while, and the cost is more reasonable when you consider the longevity of use. When it comes to leak prevention and innovative lid design, we were delighted with the overall performance of this kid water bottle.

9

Nice Insulated Stainless Straw Sipper


Thermos FUNtainer Spout


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$18.99
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

The 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 effortlessly come apart and are 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 one has a habit of chewing 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 an excellent job preventing leaks with a closed lid, water flows freely through the straw with the top open, so it isn't leak-proof. So, if the button is pushed accidentally while in a bag, you could end up with a wet mess, and truthfully, no one has time to deal with that. But, thanks to its quality construction and ease of use with a variety of optional kid-friendly designs on the bottle, this bottle is a popular choice.

10

Double Leak Protection


Nalgene OTF


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$10.95
(16% off)
at Amazon
See It

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

The 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 or struggle to do. While older kids may fair okay, preschoolers could need some assistance. Another concern is that if the bottle is not full and the lid is left open, it will topple over. Despite its functional drawbacks and challenges for younger users, the leak protection that this kid water bottle offers is hard to beat.

11

The Classic Collapsible


Platypus SoftBottle


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$8.00
List Price
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 want to avoid carrying extra weight. It stores flat, or you can roll it up and store it in tight spaces. Its 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, a more complicated flip cap with a lock. This bottle has a wide opening without the lid and is much easier to clean. Its size is greater, 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 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 problems, 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 additional information on BPA, phthalates, and PVC, check out the Children's Environmental Health Network or EcoWatch. While research concerning the effects of plastic on the human body is ongoing, there is enough information available to confirm safety concerns. We prefer to limit children's exposure to these chemicals whenever possible and encourage parents to strongly consider products that use stainless steel, glass, and silicone over plastic.

The Camelbak Chute Mag is a vacuum insulated  stainless steel bottle that is available in a variety of colors.
The Camelbak Chute Mag is a vacuum insulated, stainless steel bottle that is available in a variety of colors.

Why You Should Trust Us


Leading our roundup is founder, Dr. Juliet Spurrier, a Board Certified Pediatrician, a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and a mother of two. This Mom-in-Chief uses her background, education, and experience to guide product selection and develop BabyGearLab's safety and testing standards. Also contributing to our water bottle review is Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz. Wendy is a mother of two and holds a degree in biology, with a concentration in chemistry. Her education provides 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, contributing to the beginning stages of testing development and review process. Since the beginning, Wendy has researched and reported on over 60 cups and water bottles. She regularly performs background research on the use of plastics in products containing food and liquid for human consumption. It is safe to say, Wendy's education, background, and Mom time help product selection for testing with ease of use, safety, and potential for leakage in mind.

Finding the perfect kids' water bottle took over 80 hours of research and testing. Each product was assessed for leakage, potential lead exposure, weight, ease of use, durability, and more. Besides hands-on testing, we performed side-by-side comparisons to find the best performer.

We tested the Simple Modern Summit bottle for lead on the solder spot  which had negative results.
Photo of the Nalgene OTF.

Analysis


Our analysis began with extensive research of over 60 kid water bottles, and we narrowed the selection down to the top contenders.

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 displaced or the paint chips. As a result of these concerns, we tested all of the kid water bottles in our review for lead. 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 can potentially 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 HydroFlask bottle has capped the bottom of their water bottle to cover the solder spot  while Simple Modern has painted over the center solder spot.
The HydroFlask bottle has capped the bottom of their water 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 usually happens as a result of contact with any lead sources, like 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 outcome.
The lead test on the left (yellow) shows a negative lead result, while the right (red) shows a positive outcome.

The easiest way to check 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
Evidence shows that lead can be in dust particles from unknown sources or due to 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 regularly vacuum and dust. Removing your shoes after being outside can also help reduce the likelihood of lead contamination in your home.

You may find yourself curious and questioning: How is a kid's water bottle different from a sippy cup? Why might you need one? Why consider a leak-proof water bottle in the first place when a cup will do? Read on to learn more.

There are multiple kid water bottle options available on the market.
There are multiple kid water bottle options available on the market.

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 water fountain or even 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 bottle 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. A water bottle for kids gives children the feeling of independence and encourages them to drink more water than they 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 would work best for your family.

Typically, kid water bottles are for children over the age of three. You may wonder why a child this old would need a leak-proof container.

Regardless if you purchase a collapsable and lightweight water bottle or one that is sturdy and long-lasting  a crucial factor to consider is that your child approves  which may encourage drinking and hydration.
Regardless if you purchase a collapsable and lightweight water bottle or one that is sturdy and long-lasting, a crucial factor to consider is that your child approves, which may encourage drinking and hydration.

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 overall, increase their level of hydration. With a bottle in hand, you don't need to worry about leaks, dehydration, or the need to find a water source while away from home.

Advantages



  • Hydration — Continual access to water encourages children to stay hydrated for any adventure.

  • 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


Although there are many 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 can cause injuries if children fall with the spout in his or her 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. Limit water bottle use to water only, and this 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.

In general, kid water bottles hold more liquid than sippy cups. They often have a leak-proof valve or a closeable lid. The body is usually insulated and sometimes slightly contoured for easier gripping. The containers typically come in different colors and patterns that encourage children to favor one over another. Some bottles have recognizable characters on the side, while others offer abstract designs or fun pictures. None of the contenders feature 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 accumulate on the spout. Most of the bottles are easy to clean and assemble/disassemble with fewer parts than sippy cups.

Kid water bottles come in varying types, which are far less dizzying than sippy cups. Styles include insulation, sport tops or straws, as well as 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 may appear minimal, bottles can function differently, and some are more challenging to use than others.

Weight


The weight of a kid water bottle is important, especially when your little one is carrying it around. 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.


In our review, the Platypus SoftBottle and Vapur Shades are bladder style vessels that are the lightest at 0.1 lbs when empty. However, one of the most substantial options is the glass Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap. Its 1.1 lbs heft is only going to get heavier and more troublesome to carry when full of water, which could potentially increase its chance of getting dropped.

Some of the available lid options include flip tops  straws  and twist-offs.
Some of the available lid options include flip tops, straws, and twist-offs.

Ease of Use


The water bottle you decide to purchase should be easy to use. If it is challenging to operate, then your child will most likely not use it. As a result, it will not only take up space in the cupboard, but it will also be a wasteful purchase. While some little testers preferred bottles in their favorite colors, the products that were easy to drink from eventually won their hearts and the options they regularly reached out to use.

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


The level of convenience to properly clean your kid's water bottle is a big deal. If it is time-consuming or requires too many specialized tools, you will not use it as often, or you might feel tempted to skip washing altogether. Products with fewer parts, such as the Klean Kanteen Insulated Kid Classic, are preferable in comparison to options that need straw brushes to clean appropriately, like the Zulu Torque. Truth be told, harder to use options will end up at the bottom of the drawer. 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 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 clean suitably, but only a few need a straw brush, and we suggest parents have both on hand.

Hand-Washing Bottles:
We recommend handwashing 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 washed by hand, 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 container with groovy paint should also be washed by hand 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


Most kid water bottles are relatively tall, slim, and fit comfortably into cup holders, along with little hands - even those 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.

An important factor to consider is a water bottle's material. The Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap on the left is glass  the Simple Modern Summit bottle in the center is stainless steel  and the Zulu Torque on the right is plastic.
An important factor to consider is a water bottle's material. The Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap on the left is glass, the Simple Modern Summit bottle in the center is stainless steel, and the Zulu Torque on the right is plastic.

Materials


Many water bottles on the market are made from various materials, such as glass, stainless steel, and plastic, and sometimes including 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


Children frequently refrain from using glass for obvious reasons (drops=breaks). However, glass options do exist in the world of water bottles, and we even 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 when it tumbles 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, the sleeve does not provide 100% protection from breakage.

Stainless Steel


Food grade stainless steel products are an excellent choice for active kids. 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.

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

We prefer stainless steel over other materials that can potentially leach chemicals into their contents. Given that steel is exceptionally durable and doesn't break, it also rivals glass options. Even though stainless steel is significantly heavier than plastic and insulated steel weighing more, we believe the tradeoff is worth it and that most children over the age of three will be able to 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. Not only a healthier alternative to plastic but also eco-friendly and lasting. Klean Kanteen is one of the eco-friendliest bottles in our lineup, and their website has supportive information on the company's efforts to keep the Earth and your children healthy.

Plastics


Plastic is a common kid water bottle material as it is budget-friendly, lightweight, and user-friendly. Plus, they often feature cool designs and colors that are eye-catching for 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 make it easier for little fingers to grasp onto the water bottle.
The side grooves on the Nalgene OTF make it easier for little fingers to grasp onto the water bottle.

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 in use, 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 over plastic safety continues, we think it is wise to take plastic out of the equation by selecting stainless steel options. Even if plastic's lower price is enticing, 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 kids' water bottles are typically silicone. Most of the silicone is medical-grade, which is widely accepted to be safer than plastic.

The silicone sleeve on the Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap adds grip and provides extra protection if the bottle drops.
The silicone sleeve on the Lifefactory with Active Flip Cap adds grip and provides extra protection if the bottle drops.

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 avoid breaking down 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.

There is a variety of spouts from hard spouts to soft silicone straws  to flip caps to open edges.
There is a variety of spouts 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. While it is mouth-friendly, it is also stiff and unforgiving if a child falls with it in their mouth. If you have an aggressive chewer, a hard spout can be irresistible, but you should keep the dangers of this 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.

The HydroFlask Kids Wide Mouth does an excellent job of keeping liquids cold for the day thanks to its double-wall vacuum insulation.
The Platypus SoftBottle is lightweight and collapsible  but it can be a little awkward to drink from as it requires two hands to drink.

Cup-like Edge


Some of the products we consider have a cup-like edge, which provides a cup-like experience and prevents possible injuries that can occur with harder spouts. Also, it avoids 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 while you tip the bottle and drink. With practice, most children can manage the feat, with older children experiencing more success.

Valves


Valves are the component of leak-proof bottles the prevent leaks. While some valves are more challenging to use than others, none of them are impossible. Unfortunately, you don't know how well a valve works until after you buy it. Reviewing the valve materials or the kind of valve isn't a good indicator of whether it 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 kid water bottles and used them that we were able to determine which were easy to use and which were a struggle.

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.

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

Help your children learn safe habits while drinking from their water bottles.
Help your children learn safe habits while drinking from their water bottles.
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 as water bottles help keep children hydrated. 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 busy children's lives. Using regular cups at mealtimes and home will offset some of the potential concerns of a kids water bottle.

There are many factors to consider when selecting the right water bottle for your child.
There are many factors to consider when selecting the right water bottle for your child.

Selecting the right kids' water bottle doesn't need to be challenging. If you follow some basic tips, you'll be able to narrow down the options based on key considerations.

First, Choose a Body Material


Before choosing a water bottle, consider the many material options as each type holds pros and cons. We feel that material is an important decision, especially considering the potential health concerns of plastics and the benefits of insulation. Also, favoring one material over another can quickly eliminate competitors and narrow down the possibilities.

Our favorite kids' water bottles are stainless steel, as this material holds the most benefits. Steel is eco-friendly and healthy for humans as it does not leach chemicals or impart flavor. It is easy to clean, plus exceptionally durable. Stainless steel lasts for years, and it is recyclable. Plus, it is easy to find stainless steel kid water bottles with insulation. While stainless steel is often more expensive and heftier than plastic, we think the extra expense and heft are minor given the health and environmental benefits, plus the durability and longevity.

Next, Pick a Spout


The second most important consideration is the water bottle's spout. Considering the injury potential and the ADA concerns related to hard spouts, we prefer a softer straw spout or a cup-like edge, when possible. Also, we find the kids' water bottles with a flexible straw spout easier to use than many hard spouts. Lids that screw-off can be challenging for younger users, but it helps that most options in our review have caps connected to the bottles, which decreases the chance of a lost lid. If your chosen spout is harder or of potential concern, we suggest encouraging your little ones to drink while staying still, or, better yet, while sitting to avoid possible injuries.


Last, Choose Insulated or Non-Insulated


Insulated bottles are a great option and have more potential than their non-insulated counterparts. Having cold water during soccer practice might be the ticket to feeling energized and refreshed. Plus, even if insulation isn't desired, it usually isn't a hindrance. The only downside of insulation is the extra weight it adds to a water bottle, which is unlikely to cause problems for older kids.

With a market flooded with options, finding the best kid water bottle can be surprisingly challenging. We dug through the details and completed hands-on testing of top contenders to find the best kid water bottles on the market. Our review and buying advice can help streamline your decision-making process, so you can return to more important matters, like family time, coordinating activities, and running carpool. Plus, we believe our lineup will have a kid-approved, leak-resistant water bottle that may fit your needs and lifestyle.


Juliet Spurrier, MD and BabyGearLab Review Team