Your baby can start drinking water from 6 months, which is also when dentists recommend introducing cups to protect teeth. Choosing the right cups as your baby grows and becomes more proficient at drinking is another milestone to prepare for.
Choosing a cup sounds like a simple enough task, but a visit to your local supermarket or online search will reveal a huge variety of cups, all with different features and functions. Who knew cups could appear to be so different?
Here’s our simple guide to the three main types of cups available and our top picks.
Going with the flow
The main difference between types of cups is how fast the drink flows out and how your baby can control it. Once you’ve selected the type of cup, the other features are down to your (or more likely, your baby’s) personal preference. Handles, insulation, colour, graphics, will all be things your little one develops a preference for as they get older.
Good to know: All cups include an age recommendation. Always select a cup appropriate to your child’s age.
Open top cups
As adults we drink from open top cups. The key difference for kid's cups is they are usually made from plastic and are more suitable for little hands. An open top cup is something to introduce gradually so that they can drink confidently from an open top cup by the time they start school.
It’s great to get your little one practising with an open top cup as soon as possible but best done in the home and under supervision so you can help with holding and controlling the flow. Leaving a toddler alone with an open top cup is very likely to involve some clean up!
Our top picks
- Doidy Cup – the slanted design helps little ones to tip the cup without a full tsunami of liquid
- Tommee Tippee No knock – the clever tech in this cups helps with accidental knocks and spills while still being open top.
- Ikea Kalas – 6 cups for just £1.50. These are the staple of most homes and cheap enough to stock up.
Free flow cups
Free flow cups do not contain any type of valve or technology to reduce the flow of the liquid but may have a spout or straw to reduce the flow. Because a free flow cup does not have a valve they are more likely to cause a mess if they are tipped. Often they have a cap or other way to make them easier to travel about with but if not, free flow cups are best used at home.
Our top picks
- Tum Tum Trainer (6m+) – this versatile cup goes from straw through to open top.
- Tommee Tippee Eseentials (6m+) – this is a classic cup and often found in nurseries too. The folding spout makes it more suitable for travel.
- Mam Learn to Drink (6m+) – Looks like a bottle and you can remove the valve to make this a free flow cup.
Sometimes called ‘leakproof’ these are cups that contain a valve which controls the flow of liquid. The valve stops the liquid from flowing out whilst allowing your baby to release the valve when they are drinking. Each brand will have their own valve design, with varying pressure needed to get the liquid out, so there can be some trial and error finding a cup your baby likes to drink from. Using the age and stage recommendation on the cup packaging is a guide but not a guarantee. Your baby will need to practice to release the valve. Remember to fully disassemble non-spill cups and clean all the parts after use.
Non-spill cups are most useful in the car, on holiday and when you’re out and about. They often have additional features such as insulation for hot days.
The way the cup is activated is the main difference. There are three types:
Lip activated – your toddler uses their lips to open the valve
Straw – sucking on the straw opens the valve
Spout – a sipping action to open the valve
Our Top Tips
- Munchkin Miracle 360 Cup (6m+) – a very popular lip activated and cup. Can leak if not stored carefully in your bag.
- Tommee Tippee Superstar (6mm+) – a straw cup that still allows drinking from any angle
- Nuk First Choice (12m+) - this bit resistant spout cup comes in several cute designs.
So there you have it. All the cups on the market basically fit into one of these 3 categories.
While there are many types of cups, no one cup that will solve all your needs. Being out and about, hot weather, your littles one’s own preference, all play a part in the cups you’ll need.
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