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How to Choose the Best Sippy Cup

Credit: Abriah Wofford
Monday July 5, 2021
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With so many considerations, finding the best leak-proof cup can seem daunting. The right choice can minimize frustrations for toddlers and parents by preventing leaks, being easy to use and clean, and offering healthy options for a child's developing systems. We'll walk you through various cups and review the features we feel are the most important.

Are Plastics Safe?
While all the plastic cups we tested are BPA-free, that doesn't mean they aren't a potential health concern. Studies indicate a variety of chemicals in plastics that work as endocrine disrupters and create potential health concerns.

Related: Are Plastics Safe for Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups?

Why Get a Leak-Proof Cup?


Do toddlers need a leak-free cup, or can they use a regular cup without utilizing this convenience product? Leak-proof cups are not necessary to acquire the skills to drink from a cup. Some experts even argue that using a sippy can delay a child's desire or ability to master ordinary cup use. Plus, leak-free cups can carry the risk of potential injury when misused (tripping with a hard spout in their mouth). So why would you want to consider letting your child use a leak-proof cup?

  • Hydration— Leak-proof cups keep children hydrated without the mess of a regular cup.
  • Transportability— Leak-proof cups are easier to transport.
  • Convenience— A useful way to offer toddlers increased independence without mess concerns.
  • Bridge— These cups can work with regular cups as a helpful (though not necessary) bridge between the bottle and ordinary cups.

Most parents love the advantages of limited spills, transportability, and durability. So, while it is essential to help children master the skills for cup use, a leak-proof cup can make life easier.

Don't try this at home. Using cups while moving can lead to possible...
Don't try this at home. Using cups while moving can lead to possible injuries as a result of falling while using sippy cups with hard spouts.
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff

Disadvantages


  • Potential Injury— Leak-proof cups are responsible for about 1 ER visit every 4 hours in the United States. These injuries are typically the result of improper use by children who keep a spout in their mouth while moving. If children fall while drinking, hard spouts can cause facial or palate lacerations. Best practices include toddlers sitting when sipping.
  • Increased Risk of Dental Decay— Given the spill-proof design, parents may be more likely to use the cups with milk and juice. The American Dental Association has concerns that increased exposure to carbohydrate drinks can potentially increase dental caries (aka cavities).
  • Delay Using Real Cups— There is a small concern that parents will skip helping children to use regular cups if a sippy cup is always around. Also, children may balk at practicing with a regular cup when an easier choice is available.

Transition sippy cups can help babies feel independent and keep...
Transition sippy cups can help babies feel independent and keep parents free of messes related to spills.
Credit: Mariusz Jurgielewicz © 123rf.com

Types of Leak-Proof Cups


There are three types of leak-proof cups. This review includes transition and toddler cups.

A good example of a standard toddler sippy cup

  • Transition cups— typically for babies 4 to 9-12 months, depending on the design. They frequently hold 8 oz or less, have flexible spouts and handles, and are lightweight (often plastic).
  • Toddler cups— typically for children between 1-3 years old. They usually hold 7-12 oz and maybe thinner with a contoured or taller design.
  • Kid Bottles— for children over the age of three and are not always "spill-proof." These have larger capacities, are often insulated, and feature sport spouts, hard spouts with straws, or flexible straws.

As you can clearly see from this top view of the sippy cups included...
As you can clearly see from this top view of the sippy cups included in this review, sippy cups come in a variety of materials, shapes, sizes and spouts.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Key Considerations


Not all sippy cups are created equal, so it's essential to consider the differences between them and how these could influence daily use.

Materials


Leak-proof cups come in glass, stainless steel, and plastic, with silicone parts. Some cups are entirely plastic, but most use a combination of materials. Different components also indicate a cup's potential longevity and cleanability. The materials can potentially impact toddler health, so we highly recommend understanding each type's benefits and drawbacks.

A straw cup is a good way to encourage cup practice with a spout...
A straw cup is a good way to encourage cup practice with a spout style recommended by the ADA.
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff

Stainless Steel


Food-grade stainless steel is an excellent choice for leak-free cups. It does not leach chemicals, lead, phthalates, or other elements into the contents; there is nothing intrinsically unhealthy about steel. Stainless steel is easy to clean and frequently comes in insulated varieties to keep liquids cold. There is some evidence that suggests that breast milk nutrients may cling to the stainless steel. However, this possible occurrence is only a concern if you use the sippy for feeding instead of hydration. Since most toddlers no longer drink breastmilk or don't rely on it for a primary nutrition source, it isn't a big deal. Stainless steel is an excellent, healthy alternative to plastic. It is also eco-friendly and durable so that toddlers can use the cup for several years. We'll say cheers to that!

While steel cups are heavier than plastic, the options in this...
While steel cups are heavier than plastic, the options in this review have design features that make them easier to hold like the narrow neck on the Klean Kanteen.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

On the downside, stainless steel is heavier than plastic, especially if it is double-walled insulated, which means some children may find steel options more challenging to hold and carry. Keep in mind, a cup's weight may not be as big of a concern for toddlers as it is for babies. Still, it is a factor to consider if your little one has limitations that make holding heavy items more challenging. The Pura Kiki, Klean Kanteen Kid Classic, Munchkin Miracle 360, and Thermos Foogo are all stainless steel options with different spout types, including straw, soft spout, hard spout, and cup edge.

Munchkin Click Lock Insulated Sippy is a lightweight plastic...
Munchkin Click Lock Insulated Sippy is a lightweight plastic insulated cup with a variety of design options.
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff

Plastics


Plastic is inexpensive, lightweight, versatile, and user-friendly for toddlers and parents alike. Plastic cups come in various styles and graphics, and their smaller prices mean fewer worries if they get lost or broken. However, plastic has potential health concerns that we believe you should consider before deciding which leak-proof cup is best for your child. We feel cups with steel or glass bodies are better choices for several reasons, outside of plastic safety concerns. The Tommee Tippee Insulated Sipper Tumbler is the top-ranked plastic choice in our review; it's leak-proof and features an insulated body that is economical.

Related: Are Plastics Safe for Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups?

The Healthy Sprouts pull on lids are made entirely of silicone which...
The Healthy Sprouts pull on lids are made entirely of silicone which is generally considered safe for use in eating materials and is soft which reduces the risk of potential fall-related injuries.
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff

Silicone


Valves, straws, spouts, or sleeves are typically silicone. In general, medical-grade silicone in cups doesn't have much exposure to contents and is considered a safe material for children's cups. Silicone spouts are flexible and mouth-friendly compared to their plastic counterparts. Also, silicone is less likely to cause injury if a child falls while drinking. However, we feel it is worth noting that some preliminary studies indicate that some silicone can break down when exposed to heat, so we suggest hand-washing to avoid this.

Several of the cups have multiple parts to assemble and clean, like...
Several of the cups have multiple parts to assemble and clean, like the two-part valve mechanism of the Tommee Tippee shown here. Failure to properly clean all parts on any cup could lead to a build-up of bacteria or mold growth.
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff

Parts


The number of parts in your sippy can influence how often you use it. Therefore, you should consider the parts that make up the whole. How easily the parts fit together and how challenging they are to keep clean are factors you'll need to contend with regularly. A cup with only a few parts that snap together is more desirable than a cup with four or more parts that are complex in nature. The majority of cups will get easier to assemble with time, but the number and complexity of the parts are an issue when cleaning or misplacing them.

This silicone straw aligns closer to the ADA preferred style of...
This silicone straw aligns closer to the ADA preferred style of spout with a straw that shuttles liquids past teeth and a valve that doesn't require excessive sucking.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Spouts


There are various spout types, including hard plastic, soft silicone, straws, and cup-like edges. Each spout has positive and negative attributes.

The Klean Kanteen Kid Classic has a hard spout that works well to...
The Pura Kiki has a soft silicone spout that is both leak-proof and...
The Munchkin Miracle 360 has a cup-like edge that helps little ones...

  • Hard Spouts --Hard spouts are usually plastic and have no flexibility. They are durable and chew-resistant but are the primary cause of sippy-related injuries.
  • Soft Spouts — Most soft spouts are silicone, mouth-friendly, easy to clean, and often easy to use. Using soft spouts is less likely to result in serious injuries.
  • Straws — Straws are typically valve-free and soft (with decreased injuries). The ADA and most dentists prefer a valve-free spout because it requires less sucking and straws tend to move the liquid to the back of the mouth, which can potentially decrease dental decay.
  • Cup-like Edge — Cup edges work from any angle and have a leak-proof valve incorporated into the edge that requires sucking to drink. The benefits are a cup-like experience, less risk of injury, and practice that could translate to ordinary cup use. The Munchkin Miracle 360 has a cup-like edge.

The Munchkin Click Lock has an internal valve inside the lid to...
The Munchkin Click Lock has an internal valve inside the lid to create the leak-proof function parents want, but the valve requires children to suck in a way that the ADA believes could lead to a potential increase in dental decay if used with sugary drinks.
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff

Valves


Valves are a critical part of any leak-proof cup. The valve is the part that prevents leaking but still allows children to pull liquid out when sipping. The American Dental Association (ADA) prefers toddlers to use regular cups instead of leak-proof products. They advise choosing valve-free options (not leak-proof) and recommend limiting sugary liquids (juice, soda, milk, etc.) to avoid dental decay. For more information about early dental concerns and training cups, see this ADA article. However, most parents desire a leak-proof cup to avoid messes. We agree that safety and exercising proper oral hygiene by using a regular cup is essential; however, we suspect parents are unlikely to forgo a sippy. The Housaavy Stainless Straw Cup with Lid in this review doesn't have a valve and meets the criteria preferred by the ADA. The straw design on the Thermos Foogo (Funtainer) aligns better though it has a somewhat leak-free valve inside.

Hard spouts like the one found on the Klean Kanteen should only be...
Hard spouts like the one found on the Klean Kanteen should only be used when sitting or standing still.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Safety Considerations


Be aware that leak-proof cups can be a potential hazard to children. Between 1991 and 2010, approximately 45,000 pediatric injuries presented to ERs were a direct result of using sippy cups. Leak-proof cups are only a convenience item and are NOT a developmental milestone or a requirement for learning how to use a cup. Some specialists feel they can even delay a child's ability to use or interest in real cups.

Soft spouts and straws, like the one found on the Thermos Foogo, are...
Soft spouts and straws, like the one found on the Thermos Foogo, are preferable styles according to the American Dental Association.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

So, given the popularity of leak-proof cups and their ability to keep children hydrated without the mess, what should parents do? The following are best practices, as outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the ADA:

  • To avoid injury, children should be stationary, preferably sitting
  • To avoid Early Childhood Caries (dental decay), cups should only contain water, NEVER sweetened or carbonated beverages
  • To avoid the complications of dental decay and dentition formation, toddlers should only utilize a leak-free cup for short periods
  • Offer children a real cup whenever possible

It is critical to consider spout design and ADA concerns. However, we still feel that sippy cups can have a place in your baby gear collection, at least on a limited basis. As long as your toddler practices with a standard cup, a sippy can be a useful addition to your parenting arsenal to keep things clean. Some of the options in this roundup have a hard spout, so you should only let children use them while sitting down or stationary to avoid potential injuries. You might also consider using them only with children who've mastered standing and walking just to be safe.

The Pura is a holdable, drinkable, eco-friendly sippy with a...
The Pura is a holdable, drinkable, eco-friendly sippy with a silicone spout that is leak-proof with a high flow rate for drinking.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

How to Choose the Best Sippy Cup


Once you determine if you need a transition cup, or a toddler sippy (based on age), then you are ready to narrow the cup field. Considering key features can help you choose the best option for your child and goals. All of the options we recommend in this review are good, but one is likely a better fit depending on your needs.

Despite being BPA-free, studies indicate that all plastic containers...
Despite being BPA-free, studies indicate that all plastic containers may have the potential to leach endocrine disruptive chemicals into the contents of the cup.
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff

First, Health, and Materials


Health is a crucial matter to us at BabyGearLab. Whether you want to or not, everyone comes into contact with chemicals in their ordinary lives, and some of them are unhealthy. Toddlers have sensitive developing systems that could suffer more from exposure to unnecessary chemicals because they are still growing. Thus, we strongly believe in limiting their exposure when and where possible. There are more concerns surrounding materials in sippy cup bodies than any other variable regarding chemical exposure. Given health concerns and cup durability, we feel materials are a natural place to start the cup selection process. We believe stainless steel has the most to offer with the least amount of drawbacks. The Pura Kiki and the Thermos Foogo have been award winners multiple times in our leak-proof cup reviews in large part due to their stainless steel design.

The Thermos Foogo requires a special straw brush to properly clean...
The Thermos Foogo requires a special straw brush to properly clean, but it is still easier than cups with more parts or difficult to clean spouts.
Credit: Micah James

Next, Ease of Use and Cleaning


Cups should be easy to use, or little ones will quickly leave them in the dust. Tiny tots typically select cups based on the color, designs, or characters on the sippy's main body. However, if the chosen cup is challenging to use, they move on to the less visually exciting choices that are easier to use and drink from. While ease of cleaning, eco-health, and leak-proof are critical concerns to parents, if your child can't get liquid out of the cup, they aren't going to use it. If the sippy isn't easy to clean or assemble, you aren't going to fill it. Because who wants to spend extra time cleaning complicated cups? These factors are why many cups gather dust or make their way to the trash. While most cups require a bottle brush for cleaning, some also need a straw brush. Using special brushes isn't necessarily a deal-breaker, but taking extra time or having lots of parts could be depending on your goals. Most families have a bottle brush leftover from the baby days, but a pack of straw brushes is an excellent addition to any kitchen.

The NUK Lerner is 100% leak-proof but harder to drink from.
The NUK Lerner is 100% leak-proof but harder to drink from.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Last, Leakage


Parents typically purchase a sippy to avoid the messes that can arise from regular cups with their ability to spill. A leak-free cup shouldn't leak, which is why we test the cups in our review for leaks through a side-by-side comparison with the competition. Keep in mind that the type of liquid you use in your sippy and where you plan to use it can influence what level of leakage you're comfortable with. For instance, if you are using a cup with water in your home, you may only need to avoid significant leaking and a few drops escaping is fine. However, if you're taking a sippy along in your diaper bag, any significant leaking might be a deal-breaker.

With so many sippy cups on the market, it can be difficult to know...
With so many sippy cups on the market, it can be difficult to know which options are best and why you might prefer one cup over another.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Conclusion


So before you stand with wide-eyed bewilderment in front of a giant shelf of leak-proof cups, think again about the performance characteristics we discussed, and which are the most important to you and your child. In our review of sippy options, we really feel there is something for everyone, no matter what performance attributes or metrics you feel are important. Our award winners
and top-ranking options reflect what we would, and have, bought for our own children.

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