How to Choose the Best Kids Water Bottle

However  once our 6 year old tester quickly got the hang of it  one hand was all necessary to operate the large push-button AUTOSEAL mechanism.
Article By:
Juliet Spurrier, MD
Mom-in-Chief
BabyGearLab

Last Updated:
Monday


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What makes a kid's water bottle different than a standard sippy cup, and why do you need one? Choosing to purchase a kids water bottle can be such a frustrating task that you might decide you don't really need one just to avoid the 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? Unlike an ordinary sippy cup, most children at least 3 years old can avoid the usual mistakes and accidents that lead parents to consider a traditional sippy cup.
Kids Water Bottle Review Contenders (Klean Kanteen Kid Sports Bottle not shown)
Kids Water Bottle Review Contenders (Klean Kanteen Kid Sports Bottle not shown)
Water bottles can be a nice product for on-the-go hydration for all children that walk out their front door. 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 nice closeable, leak proof bottle can give children the freedom to move from place to place with their own easy to use, easy to access drink good for carrying in a backpack, in the car, or on the field. Kid's water bottles give children the feeling of independence and encourage them to drink more water than they might usually drink. 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.

We suggest you take a look at our Best Kid's Water Bottle to learn more about cups in our review and how they performed against the competition in our tests.

You may also be interested in our related article, Are Plastics Safe for Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups?

Why Get a Kid's Leak-Proof Bottle?


Our testers gave a big thumbs up to the exciting graphics and functionality of the Thermos Funtainer and the cool color and modern design of the Bubba Hero.
Our testers gave a big thumbs up to the exciting graphics and functionality of the Thermos Funtainer and the cool color and modern design of the Bubba Hero.
Kid's water bottles are usually marketed for children over the age of 3. Given this information you may wonder why a child this old would need a leak proof cup since they can probably easily drink from a regular cup. Since the American Dental Association encourages that a traditional sippy cup not be used, or used for only a short period of time, it stand to reason that you would want to limit or avoid the leak proof cup as soon as possible. While it is a good idea to use an ordinary cup for meals and snack at home or while sitting at a table, it can be hard to use ordinary cups while in the car or while playing. The use of a leak proof bottle can offer children an easy way to get in the water necessary to keep up with their busy schedules. Being able to send your little one out for a day of adventure with a full water bottle to drink, can improve their ability to play, their overall mood, and give you the flexibility to stay away from home for longer periods of time. This way you don't need to worry about leaks, dehydration, or the need for finding fluid away from home.
  • Hydration—Regular access to water is a great motivator to encourage children to keep their bodies properly hydrated for whatever adventures the day may bring.
The Nalgene is so hard to drink from  it requires excessive sucking power
The Nalgene is so hard to drink from, it requires excessive sucking power
  • Transportability—These bottles are easy to transport and carry because they don't leak and they have a relatively narrow design so they fit in smaller spaces. Many of them also have a loop attached to the bottle that allows the bottle to be attached to a pack or belt.
  • Convenience—Kids can get a drink whenever they want to. They don't have to wait for a water fountain or for someone to find them a beverage or make a purchase.

Disadvantages

  • Potential Injury— These bottles often have hard sport spouts and straw spouts that are not flexible. This means there is a potential for injury should children fall while using them. While this is not as big as a concern as a sippy cups where toddlers are still learning to be stable on their feet, it can be a problem if children use them while running or moving. Some children might form the habit of walking or playing while holding the bottle and nonchalantly sipping without thinking or considering the possibility for getting hurt.
  • Increased Risk of Dental Decay— Any time children ingest sugary or carbohydrate liquids there is an increased risk of dental decay. Doing this through a straw or sport cap can potentially increase the amount they ingest, the sucking required from a leak-proof cup can also increase the potential for the sugar to make its way into the root system of the teeth.

Types of Leak-Proof Water Bottle for Kids


The older version of the Triple Insulated Eco Vessel Frost had color versions that were prone to paint chipping  even though only hand washed as per instructions. The newer powder-type coating is more durable.
The older version of the Triple Insulated Eco Vessel Frost had color versions that were prone to paint chipping, even though only hand washed as per instructions. The newer powder-type coating is more durable.
This review covers bottles for children over the age of 3. The bottles in this category are designed for older children and include features like holding larger amounts of fluid, and sport or straw spouts designed for older children that no longer include sippy type spouts. These bottles are normally narrow, long bottles that are easy to hold and often insulated so fluids can stay cool for longer periods of time, which is nice if the contents are milk or juice.

There are three types of leak-proof cups; toddler cups are just one possible stage. The others include, transition cups, and kid bottles.
  • Transition Cups—
    Transition cups are for babies between the ages of 4 months and 9-12 months. These cups holds smaller amounts of liquid, usually have smaller spouts that are sensitive to the gums, and have handles for easier holding. Transition cups help babies with hand eye coordination and feeding themselves.
  • Toddler Cups—
    A good example of a standard toddler sippy cup
    Toddler cups are intended for toddlers 12 months to 3 years of age. These cups are normally hold between 7-12 ounces, aren't as squat, and have a contoured shape as opposed to handles.
  • Kid Bottle—
    Kid bottles are for children over 3 and hold more than 12 ounces. They are often insulated and have adult style drinking spouts. They are not always leak-proof, but those that aren't usually have a closeable lid or straw spout.

Kid Bottle Design


Kid's bottles are generally larger and hold more liquid. They normally have a leak-proof valve or a closeable lid. The body is often insulated or slightly contoured for easier holding by smaller hands. The bottles 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 and age appropriate. None of these bottles have handles, but several offer a place to attach a clip to the cup for easy connection to backpacks or strollers for easier transportation. Several of them come with lids or folding spouts to help decrease the amount of dirt and debris that can accumulate on the spout.

This is a budget friendly copolyester plastic bottle
The Crocodile comes with an attached lid
Stainless steel body with a plastic flip spout with attachment loop
 
The photos above are some examples of the kid's water bottles we used in this review. From left to right they are the Eco Vessel Scout, Nalgene Grip N Gulp, Crocodile Creek, and the Bubba Hero Sport.

Most of the bottles are easy to clean and assemble, there are fewer parts than the sippy cups and they are easier to put together and take apart.

Performance Considerations


Kid's water bottles come in only a few different varieties that aren't as dizzying in possibilities as the toddler or transition cups. Some are insulated, sport bottle top or straw, and stainless steel or plastic. However, how well they perform does vary, and whether or not kids will use them is also a concern. While the metrics we tested for are important and help paint a complete picture of each option, how the cups vary from each other is equally as important and can determine whether or not kids will use the bottles, or you will even want them to. While the variations appear to be less on the surface, the bottles definitely functioned differently and some were harder to use than others.

Bottle Body


Kid's water bottles are taller and narrow than toddler cups
Kid's water bottles are taller and narrow than toddler cups
Kid's bottles for the most part are larger and taller than their toddler counterparts. Most hold more than 12 ounces, and their profiles are narrower, taller, and fit in most cup holders.
  • Tall and Slim— The kid's water bottles are all tall and slim; they fit easily into cup holders and into little hands. They do not take up a lot of room in backpacks, and even the insulated varieties are relatively light and easy to transport. Most of these require a bottle brush to clean given their deeper designs, and some require a straw brush to properly clean their connected straws or mouthpieces. These styles really are the best for children thanks in large part to their increase volume capabilities and insulation properties.

Materials


Kid's bottles can be made of glass, stainless steel, plastic, and silicone parts. Some bottles are made mostly of plastic with a few silicone parts, but many if our review are made of stainless steel. Our highest scoring bottle, the Contigo has a body made primarily of steel, with just a few plastic and silicone parts. When it comes to materials, stainless steel can be a more eco-healthy option than the plastic varieties and easier to clean. While the plastic bottles are lighter and potentially easier to carry. 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 kind of material before making a decision on what kind of bottle to buy.

We encourage you to read our article on plastics Are Plastics Safe for Bottles and Sippy Cups? and the review on How to Choose the Best Sippy Cups for Toddlers to learn about the potential problems and concerns related to plastic use in bottles and cups for children. Issues surrounding the use of plastics in children's products is such an important issue it is certainly worth reviewing the available information before making a buying decision.

Glass
Good example of a toddler sippy; larger volume  no handles  grip silicone sleeve  and harder spout.
Not many bottles for kids are made of glass, while they do exist, we did not review any for this review. Glass is a great inert substance that does not impart chemicals to its contents, but it is also breakable and could be a problem being jostled around in a back pack or thrown on a playground. We did review a Lifefactory bottle in our toddler sippy, and we liked the cup, it just didn't seem as practical for older children and given the potential need for children to have an insulated cup, none of the glass possibilities made it into our review for kid's bottles.

Stainless Steel
Food grade stainless steel containers are a great option for spill proof bottles on the go for older kids. Steel doesn't impart chemicals or odors onto its contents. It is easy to clean, durable, and often insulated. Steel is earth friendly, eco-healthy, and recyclable. Thermos Foogo Insulated Straw Bottle was a high scoring cup in this review. It has nice insulation properties, and is made primarily of stainless steel. This means it combined two great qualities in a bottle, steel and literal cool.

We prefer steel over other materials that can potentially leach chemicals intotheir contents. Given that steel is extremely durable and doesn't break, it also rivals the glass option in materials. While steel can be heavier than plastic, and insulated heavier even still, we think the tradeoff is worth it and that most children over the age of 3 can easily hold and carry the insulated cups with relative ease.

If you are looking for a healthier alternative to plastic bottles and cups, that are 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, their website has interesting information on how the company works to keep the Earth as health as your children. Our Editors' Choice winner, Contigo, and the Top Pick for insulated are both steel.

Plastics
This is a budget friendly copolyester plastic bottle
Plastic is a common budget friendly bottle material that helps create lightweight easy to use bottles and cups that are versatile and user-friendly. These cups often have fun and interesting patterns and colors that are attractive to kids and parents alike. Given their cheaper price tags many parents can be drawn in to buying them for budget reasons while children want like them for the bright graphics and often recognizable characters. Unfortunately, plastics do have some potential eco-health concerns that parents should consider before choosing which bottle to buy.

This bottle is made with BPA free plastic
This bottle is made with BPA free plastic
Given the potentially unhealthy properties of plastics we feel it is important for parents to review the available information and history of plastics. While BPA, one of the original components of some plastics that fell on the radar of parents, is no longer being used, that doesn't mean that plastics are 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 being used in kid's water bottles may not be safer than the BPA plastics they replaced.

According to a study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives:
In some cases, BPA-free products released chemicals having more EA than did BPA-containing products.

Another study published in Environmental Healthfound that some plastics still potentially leached 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.

Only the lid is plastic on the Kid Basix bottle  so no plastic sits in the liquid or potentially leaches into the contents.
Only the lid is plastic on the Kid Basix bottle, so no plastic sits in the liquid or potentially leaches into the contents.
Before you toss all your plastic containers and bottles, take a breath. The jury is still technically 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 needs to be done, and that in the meantime parents should proceed with caution.

Most bottles have some combination of plastic parts included in them, even if it is just the straw or bottom portion of the bottle. In addition, many bottles are made entirely of plastic. While the debate will likely continue on plastic safety, in our opinion, it is just easier to take plastic out of the equation whenever possible by choosing the stainless steel bottles. Even if the cheaper price of the plastic options is appealing, we feel that steel is not only a healthier option, but might even save money over time given the potential longevity of the steel options.

Silicone
The straw spout and valve on the Foogo are silicone  while the straw itself is plastic
The straw spout and valve on the Foogo are silicone, while the straw itself is plastic
Silicone in kid's bottles is primarily used in the spouts, straws and valves. Sometimes it can also be found in a sleeve that is used on the bottle for grip and some insulation. Silicone is generally considered as a safer alternative to plastic, and most of the silicone used is medical grade silicone.

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 release small particles over time. Given this potential, we encourage parents to hand wash the silicone parts, or all parts of the kid's bottles just to be safe.

Parts


Limited number of parts and no straw make this a bottle that is easy to clean and assemble
Most of the bottles we reviewed had a limited number of parts. Unlike the sippy cups we reviewed in other categories, the kid's bottles had far fewer parts and most of them were easy to clean and assemble. The body, lid, and straw were the most common parts. Some had additional leak-proof valves, but only 1 had more than 4 parts to assemble, and most had 3 or fewer.

Spouts


There were primarily only two kinds of spouts in kid's bottles. Hard spouts and flexible straws; though there was one cup like edge in our review.

Hard Spouts
Hard sport type spouts on the Klean Kanteen
Hard spouts are made from plastic and possible silicone cover. They have little to no give and could cause potential injury if children fall while using them. He spouts tend to wear well over time, and some of them are resistant to chewing and biting damage. The Nalgene is a good example of a hard spout. While it is mouth friendly, it is stiff and unforgiving if fallen on. The Eco Vessel options also have hard spouts, but their spouts are covered in softer silicone that can be damaged if chewed or bitten. If you have an aggressive chewer, you should keep this in mind when looking at potential bottles to buy.

Straws
This straw spout is made of silicone and is easy to drink from
Flexible straws spouts have an advantage over the hard spout options because they are less likely to cause injury and are more closely aligned 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. Given that a straw helps move the fluid to the back of the mouth, bypassing most of the teeth, this kind of spout could potentially lead to better overall oral hygiene and less dental decay. The biggest disadvantage to straws are 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 had was that some of the straws dislodged from their lids and rendered 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 one when they want.

Cup-Like Edge
The cup edge of the Contigo auto seals when the button is not depressed
One of the bottles we looked at, and our Editors' Choice winner, the Contigo, had a cup like edge. This edge allows for a ore cup like drinking experience, and prevents possible injury from a harder spout without the hassle of straw cleaning and maintenance. The only drawback to this cup 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, and at least was so hard none of the little testers enjoyed it. The problem with valves is it is hard to know if one will work until after you buy it. Looking at materials or kind of valve a bottle has is not a good indicator of whether or not it will actually 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 really determine which were easy to use and which failed to give up their goods.
The straw fits into the bottom of this leak-proof valve
The straw fits into the bottom of this leak-proof 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 that parents 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 3 can learn to close lids to avoid leaks, it might still be useful for the bottle to have a leak-proof valve. The Eco Vessel products in this review did not have leak proof valves, and even when closed properly they often leaked in backpacks and on school projects.

The ability of a bottle to prevent leaks was the highest weighted metric in our tests. Most of our testers were upset or disappointed to find the contents of their back pack wet or ruined from water, or worse liquids. So while older children might be capable of using lids and closing bottles properly, some of the bottles still leaked and lacked a leak-proof valve.

Safety Considerations


The Funtainer has a soft spout which could mean potentially less injuries from falling during use
The Funtainer has a soft spout which could mean potentially less injuries from falling during use
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.

Here are some best practices, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the ADA:
  • Children should be stationary
  • 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 increase hydration on the go, kid's water bottles offer something an ordinary cup just can't match and they can certainly have a place in life of your busy child. Offering an ordinary cup at meals times and when at home, can offset some of the potential problems or concerns of using a kid's bottle.

How to Choose the Best Kid's Water Bottle



First, Choose a Body Material


The Bubba is insulated stainless steel
The Bubba is insulated stainless steel
Body material is one of the major factors in choosing a kid's bottle. Given the potential health concerns surrounding plastics, and the benefits of insulated bottles, the material a bottle is made of is an important variable. In addition, it can help narrow the field of potential options quickly by eliminated many of the options based on material alone.

We feel a stainless steel bottle body offers the most benefits to children. Steel is eco-friendly as well has healthy for humans. It does not leach chemicals or impart flavor, and it is easy to clean and extremely durable. Stainless steel last for years and is fully recyclable. In addition, many of the steel options come in an insulated varieties.

Our favorite bottles are stainless steel, including the Editors' Choice Contingo, and the Top Pick for Insulated, the Thermos Foogo Straw Bottle. While stainless steel options are normally more expensive than plastic, we feel the extra cost is justifiable given the health and environmental benefits and the duration the bottle is likely to last. The only 2 plastic bottles in our review, the Camelbak Eddy and the Nalgene, scored close to last in our tests, and really only outscored the competition in the weight category.

Next, Pick a Spout Type


Internal mechanism of Contigo AUOTSEAL technology.
Internal mechanism of Contigo AUOTSEAL technology.
Possibly the second most important consideration for kid's 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. In our review, the Contigo has a cup like edge, and the Thermos Foogo and Funtainer both had soft silicone straw spouts. Also in our review the cups with the flexible straw spouts were also easier to use than some of the hard spouts. The Nalgene was the hardest to drink from, and while it didn't leak when topped over, it almost didn't give up liquid at all, even when in use. However, if your child is a chewer or can learn to use the bottle primarily while standing still or sitting, the sport spout of the Klean Kanteen or the Crocodile Creek drinking bottle are also nice options to consider. Both work well and are easy to drink from.

Last, Choose Insulated or Non-Insulated


The insulated Eco Vessel needs to be hand washed to protect the paint on the outside
The insulated Eco Vessel needs to be hand washed to protect the paint on the outside
Insulated bottles are a great option and offer more possible drink choices or potential enjoyment than their non-insulated counter parts. Even if a bottle is just filled with water, having cold water on a playing field after a long day at school might be just what a child needs to get a refreshing break. Alternatively, even if insulation isn't desired or needed, it probably isn't a hindrance. The only real downside to insulation is it creates a bottle that is heavier than the non-insulated varieties. Five out of 11 bottles in our review are insulated. The insulated bottles scored higher overall, and even though they may cost more than the other bottles, they are still a preferable option that keeps your options open.

Conclusion


In our review of 11 of the top rated kid's bottles it is clear that there is less variety in style than there is in performance. Many of the bottles had physical characteristics in common or appeared to be very similar on first blush. Over half are stainless steel, about half are insulated, and many have a hard spout. Narrowing the field by choosing the eco-healthy stainless steel decreases the possibilities from 11 to 9. Further narrowing by spout type leave you with 2-3 potential options. All three of the options are insulated. In the end, our award winners reflect not only the highest performing products, but they are the products our own children use and love.

Dr. Juliet Spurrier is founder and Mom-in-Chief at BabyGearLab
Juliet Spurrier, MD
About the Author
Dr. Juliet Baciocco Spurrier is a board certified pediatrician, mother of two, and founder of BabyGearLab. Juliet earned her Bachelor of Arts degrees in Anthropology and Italian Literature from the University of California at Berkeley and her Medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington DC. She completed her pediatric residency at the Doernbecher Children's Hospital at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR, and subsequently practiced pediatrics in both the Pacific Northwest and Silicon Valley. Juliet serves as Mom-in-Chief at BabyGearLab, where she oversees all baby product review activity, assuring that each review delivers on our commitment to quality.

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