How to Choose the Best Sippy Cup for a Toddler

Article By:
Juliet Spurrier, MD, Wendy Schmitz, & BabyGearLab Team

Last Updated:
Wednesday
September 14, 2016

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How do you pick the right leak-proof cup for your toddler on the go? Choosing the right sippy cup for your toddler can seem like a daunting task with several factors to consider. It is tempting to just guess, throw anything in the cart, and hope for the best. However, choosing the right cup can minimize frustration for toddlers and their parents by limiting spills and leaks, being easy to drink from and clean, and offering healthy attributes for your child's developing body. In this buying advice article we'll walk you through the different types of cups, discuss which features we feel are most important and why, and offer help in deciphering what the benefits and drawbacks are of the different features.

On the go toddlers need a cup that can go with them
On the go toddlers need a cup that can go with them

We encourage parents to check out our companion article, The Best Toddler Sippy Cup Review, to hear more about the award winning cups and how they stacked up against the competition.

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

Why Get a Toddler Leak-Proof Cup?


Upside down cup can be great toddler fun
Upside down cup can be great toddler fun
Does your toddler really need a leak-free cup, or can they move on to a regular cup without this convenience product? Is this a developmental milestone, or merely something that makes parent's lives easier? Toddler cups, and even transition cups, are not a necessary bridge between bottle drinking and learning the skills to drink from an ordinary cup. In fact, some would even argue it can delay a child's desire or ability to master the skills required for ordinary cup usage. Plus, leak-free cups in general carry an increased risk of potential injury if not used properly (the biggest risk here is a toddler tripping with a hard spout or straw in their mouth). So why would you want to buy, or consider using, a leak-proof cup with your child? The answer is really in the question.
  • Hydration—Leak-proof cups offer a nice way to help keep active toddlers hydrated, without the mess and concerns of a regular cup. These cups allow toddlers to help themselves to liquids without the aid of an adult. This can potentially increase the amount of hydration they consume in a day, and help them avoid dehydration.
Spilled cups in cars can be frustrating  but cups on the go keep kids hydrated
Spilled cups in cars can be frustrating, but cups on the go keep kids hydrated
  • Transportability—Toddler cups are easy to transport spill-proof cups that make taking fluids with you when you leave the house so much easier.
  • Convenience—Toddler cups are a convenient way to give children some independence without having to worry about a mess to clean up or stains if a spill goes unreported.
  • Bridge—These cups are normally age specific, easy to use, and easy to clean products, that when used in conjunction with regular cups, can be a nice (though not necessary) bridge between real cups and bottles.

Most parents appreciate the convenience of cups that limit spills, can be thrown in a diaper bag or stroller, and are less likely to break during normal use. So while it is important to continue helping children to master the proper skills necessary to drink from everyday cups, this kind of product can be a nice addition for parents looking to make life just a wee bit easier.

Disadvantages

  • Potential Injury
    Don't try this at home. Using cups while moving can lead to possible injuries as a result of falling while using sippy cups
    Don't try this at home. Using cups while moving can lead to possible injuries as a result of falling while using sippy cups
    Leak-proof cups are responsible for approximately 1 ER visit every 4 hours in the United States. These injuries are primarily a result of improper use with children moving around with the cup spouts in their mouth. When the child falls, the cup spout can cause facial or palate lacerations. You already knew to not run with scissors, but the statistics suggest that no toddling with a sippy may be similarly practical advice. It is best to have your toddler sit while using a sippy cup.
  • Increased Risk of Dental Decay— Because sippy cups offer a nice spill proof vessel, that allows parents to avoid the dreaded spill, parents are more likely to fill the cups with items other than water; for example, milk and colored juice products. Because increased exposure to sugary, carbonated, or carbohydrate type beverages can increase the risk of dental decay, the American Dental Association has concerns that potential increased exposure might increase dental caries (aka cavities).
  • Delay Using Real Cups— There is a small concern that if children use leak-proof cups, their parents will forgo or avoid teaching them how to use ordinary cups. In addition, children might balk at practicing the skills necessary to master regular cups when a simpler, more easy to use, option is so readily available.

Types of Leak-Proof Cups for Toddlers


This review is for cups for toddlers at least 9 months of age; the cups we reviewed in this category have features that were age appropriate for children in that range. Cups designed for younger children, or babies, are called "transitional cups", and serve as a stepping stone between bottle feeding and toddler cups. Transitional cups typically have handles, hold less liquid, and use softer spouts to ease the transition from nipples. Transitional cups are covered in our Transition Sippy Cup Review. Some cups, such as the Thermos Foogo Phases line, offer different tops that provide more variety with lids that are transition cup worthy.


There are three common types of leak-proof cups; toddler cups are just one possible stage. The others include, transition cups, and kid bottles.
  • Transition Cups—
    These cups are for babies between the ages of 4 months and 9-12 months depending on the cups specifications. The cups usually hold less than 8 ounces of fluid, have softer spouts that are easy on sensitive gums, have a dual handle design that is easier for babies to grasp and control, and are lighter weight, so even small babies can easily lift them. Transition cups can help babies master the skill of hand eye coordination of moving the cup toward their face, holding objects, and feeding themselves.
  • Toddler Cups—
    A good example of a standard toddler sippy cup
    These cups are generally designed with toddlers in mind. The age range is typically 12 months to 3 years of age. These cups are normally larger (holding between 7-12 ounces), and are thinner in design, with either a contoured body shape or a longer cup design that helps children grasp and hold the cup without the need for handles. These cups are a convenience item that helps toddlers stay hydrated without frustrating parents with excessive spills.
  • Kid Bottle—
    Kid bottles are designed for children over the age of 3. They usually hold even more liquid than the toddler cups, are often insulated for keeping contents cool for longer durations, and have sport type spouts, hard spouts with connected straws, or flexible straws. These cups are not always "spill proof" because they don't ordinarily contain a valve that prevents leaks. However, they often have a way of closing a lid, or bending a straw/spout, that helps the cup avoid leaking.

Toddler Cup Design


Toddler cups usually have some kind of leak-proof valve that prevents the cup from leaking if toddlers drop or toss the cup on the fly. The cups are usually slimmer and taller in the main body, so they can fit in cup holders and be held by little hands that have more dexterity than those of younger babies. Toddler cups often have more recognizable characters on them to entice children to choose the cups that display their favorite cartoons, as opposed to the plainer transitional cups. Not many of the toddler cups had handles, but more than one sported some kind of silicone sleeve or rubberized hand area to increase toddlers' ability to grasp and hold the cups for longer durations.
Unique design includes a 360 degree cup like edge with no spout
Stainless Steel body with silicone sleeve and spout
 
The photos above are some examples of typical toddler cups; from left to right they are Sassy Grow Up Cup, Playtex Little Gripper, Pura Kiki Toddler, OXO Straw Cup, and Thermos Foogo Phase 3 Insulated Straw Cup

Toddler sippys are also designed to be easy to assemble and clean, and durable enough to withstand the bumps and tossing tantrums that toddlers dish out.

Performance Considerations


Not all toddler cups are created equal. But there is much more to consider when looking for a good cup than just the test metrics we outlined in The Best Toddler Sippy Cup Review, or its companion article How We Test. It is also important to consider some of the different cup design variations, and how they can impact the daily use of the product. These variations can be the difference between a cup parents and kids love, and a cup they never use.

Cup Body


Toddler cups come in a few different body styles. The body style can be an important consideration depending on the needs and skills of your toddler.
  • Tall and Slim—
    Pura Kiki Toddler with silicone XL Sipper Spout. This won our Editors' Choice Award for Toddler Sippy. It is easy to use  clean  and drink from...all without plastic. It also comes with a silicone cap and has accessory silicone caps.
    Many of the toddler cups were tall and slim. These cups fit easily into most cup holders, allowed little hands to grasp the bodies firmly, and didn't take up much room in a diaper bag. However, these cups required a bottle brush to clean them properly, may tip out of shallow cup holders, and were more difficult for toddlers to set down without tipping them over. That said, in our tests, cups with this body style generally scored higher overall than the other styles.
  • Shorter and Contoured—
    The shorter and more contoured cups ranged between slightly tapering, to significant hourglass shapes. These cups were usually very easy for toddlers to hold, had textured sides for additional grip factor, were lighter weight than their competition, and fit in some cup holders. But these cups didn't hold as much liquid as the taller cups and were usually only made of plastic.
  • Squat and Wide—
    Unique cup edge instead of spout
    The squat cups were more similar to some of the transition style cups. They had a fatter bottom which made setting them down easier for toddlers to do, but they had a larger circumference that allowed a similar volume of liquid to the shorter body style cups. But these cups rarely fit into cup holders, they limited the new skills toddlers could learn, and sometimes failed to hold enough fluid for the heavier drinkers. This style of cup scored fairly low overall in our rankings.

Materials


Toddler cups can be made of glass, stainless steel, plastic, and silicone parts. Some cups are made entirely of plastic, but most of the cups used a combination of materials. The highest scoring cup, Pura Kiki Toddler, was a combination of eco-healthy materials, with silicone for the spout, and stainless steel for the body and collar. The kind of materials used also dictated the overall longevity of a cup, as well as, a parent's ability to clean it. The materials can also potentially impact overall health of toddlers, so it is important that parents understand the benefits and drawbacks to each kind of material.

Given the importance of the material makeup of cups, we encourage you to read our article on plastics. We will discuss plastics here, but Are Plastics Safe for Bottles and Sippy Cups? is a more in depth look at the concerns and issues surrounding plastics used in these types of products. This is such an important issue that it always is worth repeating and learning more about.

Glass
Lifefactory Glass Sippy with silicone sleeve and hard spout
Lifefactory Glass Sippy with silicone sleeve and hard spout
Glass is an inert substance that neither contributes chemicals to its contents, nor does it allow nutrients to cling to its surfaces. This makes glass uniquely capable of handling toddler cup duty. Glass is recyclable, and uses renewable resources so its overall impact on the environment is significantly less than that of plastic. The Lifefactory Glass Sippy was the top scoring glass cup in our tests, and it came with a silicone sleeve so there was nothing extra to buy.

However, glass does have its drawbacks when used in sippy cups. Glass can shatter or break, and given enough time and opportunity, it will eventually. The glass toddler cups we tested came with a silicone type sleeve that helped prevent the glass from breaking as a result of minor bumping and short drops, and it also made it easier to hold. The sleeve does the job fairly well under normal use, but normal use for a toddler is variable, and more gregarious tykes might quickly break this cup. Any resulting pieces could potentially cause injury if parents are not immediately on hand to clean up the mess, which makes this kind of cup a little more high maintenance than plastic or stainless steel. We suggest not leaving little ones alone with glass for this reason.

Glass is also heavier than plastic, and often non-insulated stainless steel as well. This meant it was better suited for older, or stronger, toddlers who could heft its weight easily to avoid the dreaded accidental dropping that might result in a broken cup.

Glass is a unique and interesting answer to the concerns of plastics in leak-proof cups. It isn't a bad choice, but it is one parents should really think about before selecting as their go-to cup. For instance, glass cups might be better suited to children who always put cups down on flat surfaces than toddlers who toss cups to the floor after taking a sip.

Stainless steel
The Klean Kanteen is made out of stainless steel
The Klean Kanteen is made out of stainless steel
Food grade stainless steel containers are a pretty good option for leak-free cups and other items that hold consumables. They do not leach chemicals, lead, phthalates, or other elements into their contents; essentially, there is nothing intrinsically harmful about them. Stainless steel is usually easy to clean, and it often comes in insulated varieties that help keep contents cool. A plus, if the cup contains liquid other than water, or it is a hot day and the cup is being used outside at a sporting event. Thermos Foogo Phase 3 Insulated was an award winning stainless steel cup for being insulated. It combined two of our favorite qualities in a cup, steel and literal coolness.

However, there is some evidence that suggests that stainless steel may allow the nutrients of breast milk, and similar nutrition, to cling to the insides of the cup; this is something to consider if you will be using the sippy primarily for feeding. Since most toddlers are no longer drinking breast milk, this isn't a deal breaker in our book; but even if they are, an insulated steel cup should at least be able to prevent the milk from spoiling.

Steel is a better option, in our opinion, than containers that potentially leach chemicals into their contents, and because it doesn't break or shatter it also rivals glass options depending on how you and your toddler will being using the cup. But, stainless steel can be heavy, especially if it is insulated, and some toddlers may have difficulty holding them for longer periods of time. This wasn't as big of a concern in the toddler stage as it is in the transition cups, but it might be something to consider if your little one has special needs, or limitations, that make holding heavy items more difficult.

Stainless steel is a great option for parents looking for a healthy alternative to plastics cups. It is also eco-friendly, and extremely durable so toddlers can use the cup for many years instead of several months. The Klean Kanteen Kid Kanteen was one of the most eco-friendly cups we tested; their website had a lot of good information on how they work to keep the environment as well as your child healthy. The Editors' Choice winner, Pura Kiki Toddler, and the Top Pick for insulated were both steel cups, proving that steel had what it took to rank high and please parents.

Plastics
Tommee Tippee Sporty Bottle
Tommee Tippee Sporty Bottle
Plastic is often used in leak-proof cups because it is relatively inexpensive, light weight, versatile, and user-friendly for toddler and parents alike. Our Best Value award winner was the plastic Tommee Tippee Sporty Bottle, which ranked 2nd out of 21 cups tested. These cups come in lots of different body styles and graphics, and given their cheaper prices usually don't cause distress if they go missing or are lost at the park. However, plastics have some eco-health concerns that we think parents should be aware of and consider when they choose which leak-proof cup is right for their child.

We have already said much about plastics in previous articles. For a full break down on how we feel about plastics, and the resources we considered in our thinking, please see our article entitled Are Plastics Safe for Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups?. However, because this topic is so important to us, we feel that much of it is worth repeating.

BPA-Free Label (upper right-hand corner)on Plastic Toddler Sippy Cup
BPA-Free Label (upper right-hand corner)on Plastic Toddler Sippy Cup
The potentially unhealthy aspects of plastics have been on the parental radar for a while. First, there was BPA in plastics that generated a stir. BPA was believed to leach chemicals that acted as endocrine interrupters, which potentially could lead to health problems for developing children. BPA plastics fell out of favor for use in plastics cups, and eventually its use was banned.

When plastics became "BPA-free", the plastic industry implied, or the public assumed, that all plastics were now safe, and there was no longer a problem with leaching chemicals. Unfortunately, some studies indicate that some of the BPA-free plastics can still potentially leach chemicals into the items they hold; which means the plastics used in some children's leak-proof cups may not be any safer than the old BPA plastics.

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

Another study we found looked at whether or not the BPA replacement plastics still potentially leached estrogenic chemicals . This study was published in Environmental Health, and indicated that some of the plastics they tested did.

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.

Now before you grow paranoid of plastics, we will say the jury is still technically out; however, we feel that less is more when it comes to potentially exposing children to chemicals. And the studies we found made us feel that more research is necessary before we can close the debate on plastics.
Fairly standard plastic Toddler sippy cups with silicone valves removed
Fairly standard plastic Toddler sippy cups with silicone valves removed
Many of the toddler cups in our tests had at least one plastic component, and most of them were entirely made of plastic. Given the abundance of plastic cups on the market, we suggest parents remain calm, but continue to be thoughtful in their choice of which cup is best for their child. In our opinion, cups with bodies made of glass or steel are the better options for many reasons, several of them outside the plastic conundrum.

So even if you are initially drawn in by the cheaper price tag that comes with plastic, we feel that over time stainless steel is not only potentially a healthier option, but possibly the more economical choice since it is far more durable than plastic, and should have a significantly longer shelf life.

Silicone
Pura Kiki shown with silicone spout  sleeve  and cap
Pura Kiki shown with silicone spout, sleeve, and cap
Silicone in toddler cups is used in either the valve, spouts, or outside sleeves. In general, silicone did not have much exposure, or prolonged exposure, to the contents of the cup no matter how it was utilized. Silicone is generally considered to be a safe material to use in toddler cups, and medical grade silicone is normally what is used in the spouts or valves.

Silicone is a nice material that allows spouts and valves to be more flexible and mouth friendly than their plastic counterparts. In addition, silicone spouts are less like to cause injury to children who may fall while using the cup, since silicone gives and plastic does not. It is worth nothing however, that some preliminary studies indicate that silicone can break down when heated and release small particles over time. So we recommend hand washing all silicone spouts, valves, and straws as a precaution to help avoid this potential issue.

The silicone sleeves, or outside the cup use, helped cups be easier to grasp and hold. The sleeves also aided in picking up hot cups left in the car, and acted as a buffer to help prevent damage to the cups they held. Cups in our tests that had silicone components tended to score better than cups that did not.

Parts


This cup had lots of parts to clean and assemble. Sometimes the parts were difficult to get back together
This cup had lots of parts to clean and assemble. Sometimes the parts were difficult to get back together
How many parts a toddler cup has can make or break how much it gets used. It is therefore important to consider the individual parts of the cup, because the parts make up the whole. How intuitively and easily the parts fit together, and how difficult those parts are to clean, are the primary reasons to focus on cup parts. A cup with just a few parts, that snap in place easily, would be preferable to a cup with more than 4 parts, that requires a diagram and an advanced degree to operate. The Philips AVENT Natural Drinking Cup had a lot of parts that were more difficult than most to assemble, which resulted in low scores for this cup in some metrics. In general, most of the cups got easier to assemble over time, but the number of parts was still and issue when it came to cleaning them, or potentially losing them. Nothing is more frustrating than throwing away a perfectly good cup because you can't find the necessary part to make it work properly.

Spouts


There are different kinds of spouts found in toddler cups. The possibilities vary between hard plastic spouts, softer silicone spouts, straws, and cup-like 360 degree edges. Each spout type has attributes parents should consider before making a purchase.

Hard Spouts
Hard spouts are usually made from plastic and have little to no "give" when applied with pressure. These spouts tend to wear well over time, being naturally resistant to chewing and other damages from being dropped. However, these kinds of spouts are the primary source of injuries related to sippy cup use. For this reason alone, we caution parents about choosing cups with harder spouts. The Tommee Tippee Sporty Bottle, and the Lifefactory Glass both had harder spouts, but both managed respectable places in the top 5 cups out of the 21 we tested. Now, if your toddler is going to use the cup only while seated, as the directions and the ADA suggest, then this might be of less concern to you. If you have an aggressive chewer, who can't stop nibbling on all things that touch their tongues, you might also favor this kind of spout. Either way, please be aware and cautious when choosing harder spouts so you can avoid a trip to the emergency room for lacerations to the face or palate.

Soft Spouts
Most soft spouts in our tests were made of silicone. The silicone was friendly on mouths, easy to clean, and most were easy to drink out of. Soft spouts are a better choice for kids on the go who might not always realistically sit down to consume liquids, since the spout is less likely to cause injuries if a child fell while using it. The only drawback to soft spouts, that we can see, is that they may encourage the same type of suckling action that infants use; this skill is not necessary past infancy, and is not a preferred drinking style of the ADA. But, that very same concern may be why many of the tiny testers liked these spouts over others types of spouts. Both the Nuk Active Cup Silicone Spout and Pura Kiki Toddler had soft spouts; in fact both spouts were identical to their transition stage counterparts.

Straws
Nice straw spout  with attached lid
Straws have an advantage over the other types of spouts because they are usually valve free; with the exception of the Zo-li Bot Straw Cup. Because of this, they are a great spout type according to the ADA and most dentists. 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. Straws are also generally soft and pliable, which helps in preventing injuries; however, it is important to note that while the Kid Basix Safe Sippy has a straw option, the exterior spout is hard plastic, so we did not consider it a "true" straw. The only real disadvantage to the straw spouts was the extra time it took to dismantle theses cups, and the special straw brush that was necessary to clean them properly. However, given time and practice, this really turned out to be not that big of a deal, and certainly wasn't a deal breaker in our minds. OXO Straw Cup was a well-liked cup by the toddler testers, with one tester even hoarding the cup from his sibling. The straw cups also all came with some kind of lid, which was a bonus in our book; two even had a fancy twist lid that covered the straw and was fun to "play" with.

Cup-Like Edge
Unique design includes a 360 degree cup like edge with no spout
A few of the cups we looked at had cup-like edges similar to ordinary cups. Two of these gave children the ability to drink from the edge 360 degrees around the cup from any angle, but they still had a leak-proof valve and required a sucking action in order to draw the fluid out of the cup. Sassy Grow Up Cup was one of these cup edged cups, and it ranked 3rd out of the 21 cups tested. It's fun design, and grown up feel was a hit with toddlers.

The benefit to these cups is a more ordinary cup experience, less chance of injuries during a fall, and an increased "feeling" of being grown up that could translate into an increased interest in regular cups. Parents or toddlers looking for a grown up experience might find this unique spout more interesting than the others. It really didn't have any specific drawbacks, with the exception of requiring sucking, which just puts them on par with most of the other cups we looked at.

The EIO Training Cup does not have a leak-proof valve; it only has a spill resistant lid
The EIO Glass Kids Cup, also had a cup-like edge, but that is because it is just a cup with a lid. This cup is specifically designed as a training cup to aid in learning how to use a regular cup. For parents who want to skip the leak-proof cups for whatever reason, this kind of cup is a good option. Given that it is not necessarily leak or spill proof by design, it will require more patience and toddler assistance until the skills necessary to work the cup well are mastered. It was somewhat spill resistant, in that there was time to pick the cup up before it lost all of its contents.

Valves


Valves are an integral part of most leak-proof cups. The valve prevents liquid from exiting, but still allows toddlers to drink the contents as they like. Some valves were more difficult to use than others, but there did not seem to be any correlation between materials or brands to indicate how well a valve might work. This meant that choosing a valve just based on looks, shape, or composition would not ensure a good valve that both prevented leaks and was easy to drink from. Even choosing based on brand isn't always a sure thing. Last year's Playtex cups were far easier to drink from than the "new" Playtex Anytime Spout Cup, which had a different valve that we found extremely difficult to use.
Two piece plastic and silicone valve in the Tommee Tippie Sporty Bottle
Two piece plastic and silicone valve in the Tommee Tippie Sporty Bottle
Parents should be aware that the American Dental Association would prefer that toddlers quickly learn to use a regular drinking cup. In general, they prefer that toddlers are NOT continually sucking beverages through a straw or spout that has a valve. The ADA advises that parents choose valve free cups, meaning cups that leak if spilled, and they prefer parents limit sugary liquids to help avoid complications that can lead to dental decay. For more information, please see the ADA article, or our article on The Best Sippy Cup Review.

The main problem with this advice, is that most parents prefer an easy to use, leak-proof cup they can use at home and on the go, but the ADA criteria doesn't support that kind of cup. While we can't disagree about children being safe with cups, having good oral hygiene, or moving them over to regular cups quickly, we do feel that realistically most parents are not going to toss out their leak-proof cups just because the ADA tells them too. The ability to prevent leaks was the highest weighted metric in our tests, because most parents wanted a cup that doesn't spill, and is good on the go. Some cups offer a happy medium, like a cup edge with a valve that is leak proof or a training cup, but there are no cups that are both leak-proof and have no valve.

Safety Considerations


Falling with sippy cups can lead to facial or palate injuries if the child is holding the cup in their mouth
Falling with sippy cups can lead to facial or palate injuries if the child is holding the cup in their mouth
Parents should be aware that leak-proof cups can present a potential hazard to children on the go. Between 1991 and 2010, approximately 45,000 pediatric injuries presented to ERs as a result of sippy cup use.

Leak-proof cups are only a convenience item; they are definitively NOT a developmental milestone, or a requirement for teaching toddlers to drink properly from a cup. Some specialists even feel they can delay a child's ability , or interest in mastering a real cup. The EIO Glass Kids Cup might be a good alternative for those worried about this issue.

So given the popularity of leak-proof cups, and their ability to keep children hydrated in a neat and tidy manner, what should parents do to meet the standards and meet their own needs? Let's face it, who wants to ride in a car smelling of rancid, sour milk? You? No? We didn't think so.

Is this a murky conundrum? A stalemate? Not necessarily so. Happily, there sort of IS a middle ground.

The following are best practices for leak-proof cup use, as outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the ADA:
  • To avoid injury, children should be stationary, preferably sitting at a table, when drinking from a no-leak cup
  • To avoid complications related to dental decay and dentition formation, toddlers should only utilize a leak-free cup for short defined periods, like during a snack or mealtime
  • It is also recommended that parents offer children a real cup whenever possible

It is important to consider the kinds of spouts available, the drawbacks of using them, and why the ADA has the concerns that they do. However, we feel there is a place for no-leak cups; when used thoughtfully and on a limited basis they can be a great convenience, without the inconvenience of spills and clean ups. After all, the goal of a no-leak cup is to offer spill-free hydration for the toddler on the go. This usually requires a leak free valve, but as long as your toddler still works on the skills necessary for using a regular cup, it can be a useful item in the arsenal of hydration options.

How to Choose the Best Toddler Sippy Cup



First, Choose a Body Material


Stainless Steel body with silicone sleeve and spout
Stainless Steel body with silicone sleeve and spout
There is more of a delineation in performance and concerns with the materials used in a toddler cup body than any other variable. Given the health concerns, as well as the durability of the cup, we feel this is a natural place to start the selection process. It also narrows the field fairly quickly by eliminating whatever materials you aren't interested in.

We think stainless steel cups have the most to offer in the way of toddler cups, with the fewest drawbacks. In addition, the steel cups had the most variety of the preferred spout styles, than plastic or glass. Plus, several of the steel cups come in an insulated option, so it is easy to make personal choice within the available steel line up.

Two of our favorite cups, and award winners, were stainless steel; Pura Kiki Toddler, Editors' Choice, and Top Pick for Insulated, Thermos Foogo Phase 3 Insulated. We know that budget is often a concern when buying new products, but we believe that the longevity, durability, and versatility of steel cups will save most parents money over time. Klean Kanteen Kids Kanteen was the cheapest steel cup in our tests, with a 6th place ranking.

Next, Pick a Spout Type


Soft silicone spout with integrated valve
Soft silicone spout with integrated valve
Arguably, the second most important consideration in toddler cups is the spout. We recommend you seek out spouts that consider the safety guidelines detailed above, as well as, the ADA concerns. For example, in the steel cups we reviewed, there were three with hard spouts, two with soft spouts, and one with a straw. Pura Kiki Toddler and Eco Vessel Insulated, both had soft silicone spouts that doubled as a no leak valve. We liked the feel of both spouts, but the Eco Vessel was significantly harder to use than the Pura. The Thermos Foogo Phase 3 Insulated, had a soft flexible straw spout that was easy to use, and could be protected from debris by an attached lid. There was virtually something for everyone; but the straws and soft spouts are probably more appealing if you are worried about injuries or dental hygiene. However, if your toddler is a chewer, nothing but a hard spout will survive very long in their clutches, which leaves you with the Klean Kanteen Kid Kanteen or the Thermos Foogo Phase 2 Insulated. Don't forget that training cups, like the EIO Glass Kids Cup, can allow you to forgo the spout altogether.

Last, Choose Insulated or Non-Insulated


Eco-healthy insulated stainless steel
Eco-healthy insulated stainless steel
Depending on the role this leak-proof cup is going to play in your toddler's life, you may feel very strongly about whether or not the cup is insulated. There were several insulated options in our review, both plastic and stainless steel. The plastic cups were lighter, but the steel cups did better in almost every other metric. Even if insulation is a non-negotiable, and you simply must have an insulated cup, there are still several different spout types, and body varieties to choose from in this category. Thermos Foogo Phase 3 Insulated offered a straw spout and steel body. The Thermos Foogo Phase 2 Insulated and Kid Basix Safe Sippy 2, both had hard spouts and steel bodies.

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 21 toddler sippy cups we really feel there is an option for everyone, no matter what performance attributes decide on, or metrics you feel are most important. BabyGearLab has found great options that we believe encompass the same priorities most parents share, but with enough variety to meet most toddler needs. In the end, our award winners reflect what we would, and have, bought for our own children.

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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