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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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—
- Toddler Cups—
- Kid Bottle—
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 dental decay bottles should only contain water, NEVER sweetened or carbonated drinks
- 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
How to Choose the Best Kid's Water Bottle
First, Choose a Body Material
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
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
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.