Sippy cups: Less is more

My sixteen month old daughter has been off the bottle for quite some time. Since then, we have been using sippy cups, and I have come to appreciate the simplicity of the two piece cup. (We also have a three piece and a couple of four piece cups, but I’m not recommending them.) When you are cleaning cups multiple times per day, the less you have to clean the better. The more pieces the cups have, the more likely you are to lose a piece–which we have definitely done.

Some ridiculous cups have six pieces! A few of the pieces are optional, but why have a six piece cup if you can get the job done with a two piece cup? It is a bit hard to figure out how many pieces a cup has shopping online, but be diligent in finding out that information. Most sippy cups have a little rubber or plastic valve to hold back the liquid, and, regardless of how many pieces there are in a sippy cup, this is the one you will inevitably lose.

The most important thing in a sippy cup is the spill factor. Does it hold the liquid? From experience, none of the cups we have are fool proof. The little one figures out how to get a few drops out here and there, but if the sippy cup has an extra piece acting as a stopper you should know that they slip out after being dropped over and over again. If the cup is missing that valve, then your child is covered in juice or milk.

To recap: When buying sippy cups, you want ones with as few pieces as possible (I recommend two–cup and lid) for easy cleaning and to reduce the likelihood that you will lose essential pieces.

28 Comments for “Sippy cups: Less is more”

  1. posted by Brian on

    This is a relatively rare occasion when I visit here, but I disagree. It’s true that simpler is better, but it’s also true that plain-vanilla cap-and-cup sippies have a greater tendency to spill and splash than any others.

    I’m not a huge fan of the really complex models, but the ones we found best where three pieces: the cup, the cap, and a very simple pop-out internal piece that was basically mean to control liquid flow and stop on-drop splashes. Worked like a charm, and pulling out the “filter” to wash it was no trouble at all. And if you lose that filter, the cup works like any cheap two-piece cup.

    Less is usually more, but not always.

  2. posted by Alligator on

    I happen to agree with the original post. We use both two and three piece cups, and oddly enough, I prefer the two piece cups because they save time. There’s no assembly needed. Plus, they cost less!

  3. posted by mamacita on

    Brilliant advice, to which I would add: buy them all in the same color. No more tantrums over who gets the pink cup.

  4. posted by Matt on


    The two piece sippy cup I recommended above has the valve system built into the cap so there isn’t a need for an extra piece.

  5. posted by Seleena on

    Matt…out of curiosity, how difficult is the built in valve to clean?

    From my experience the three piece Brian is referring to is definitely easy to clean. But I completely understand the frustrations of losing the valves.

    But the thought of a built in valve makes me think it will be hard to get all the grime out. coffee cups. I’ve tried several, and the ones that have a slider thing that covers the sipping hole are the worst, for cleaning. Because coffee and cream grime gets under the slider and is very difficult to clean. I have to soak these lids in soapy water to make sure all the residue is removed.

    Are the sippy cups like that? The reason I ask is I bought my cousin’s baby several of the three piece cups because of the spill proof design. However, she is NOT diligent when it comes to cleaning her bottles properly…she doesn’t remove the nipple from the cap so milk products remain. This may be a problem with the three piece sippy too.

    If this model is better, for cleaning, then I need to get her those!

    Let me know what you think.


  6. posted by Ellen on

    My son is now 17 (years, not months), and I have to say I’m astounded that sippy cups now have more than two pieces! He did quite well with two-piece models. They never spilled or fell open, and they were perfectly easy to clean. The growing complexity of sippy cups–and all things for babies–is not a good thing. No wonder we all need to unclutter!

  7. posted by Damon on

    Buy all the same type of sippy cups. That way you can mix and match and everything fits. The 3 piece cups also sell replacement valves for one that succumb to the garbage disposal. The two piece ones are fine during the days, but when my little ones want water for bed time they only get the 3 piece as they don’t mysteriously fall apart and have less tendency to leak when reclined.

  8. posted by Andamom on

    My son wasn’t happy with many of the cups we tried at the beginning. As a result, I bought several varieties. The best option was one with a straw — that allowed him to get the most liquid. He used this variety at day care (where I supplied 2 cups with straws) and although it isn’t always neat and doesn’t have 2 parts, it works the best for him. Once you know what works best for your toddler, you can either put away the other cups or donate them to another family. We’re just about to go through this process ourselves and rid our cabinet of unncessary clutter.

  9. posted by Alexis on

    I found awesome 2-piece cups that don’t leak at all at the Dollar Tree! Dude, did I stock up. As an aside, I hate those 3 piece kind – my son would shake the cup until the internal stopper would fall out and then juice would spray everywhere. Not to mention the 1/2 dozen sippys I now have that the stopper is lost and now I can’t use.

  10. posted by Jasi on

    @Ellen: You’re so lucky. Our 7 sippies all spill. She manages to hack everything to leak for improptu water playtime. An evil genius at 19mo, I’m hard pressed to find a good sippy. Any brand recommendations. I hate the complex ones we have.

    Sippies leave me slipping. Minimalist mom thought she was fabs for going breast to sippy, never buying a bottle. But now I have an ugly collection. Please help.

  11. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    Things to think about when buying sippy cups.
    Ask friends (and message boards) to recommend models that:
    don’t leak
    are dishwasher safe (or otherwise easy to clean)
    and preferably unbreakable
    The disadvantage of buying the cups all the same colour is that you don’t know who had which cup.
    I found the Playtex ones with the stopper (3 piece) cups virtually unbreakable (unless you run them over with the car) If you wash the stopper by hand they remain leak proof for longer than if you put the stopper in the dishwasher.

  12. posted by Amy on

    Two things to be aware of with sippy cups.
    1. they direct the liquid to pool around the front teeth, often the kids won’t put them all the way into their mouth and the liquid shoots directly onto their front teeth. Which is no problem IF it’s water, but if you put any thing other that water in a sippy cup you will be running into dental problems. Straw cups seem to avoid this better than the sippys you showed.

    2. The ones you are showing are all plastic. and it’s that wonderful plastic that leaks poisons into our children’s bodies

  13. posted by HandsFree on

    @Jasi: I agree with Jacki… Playtex is the best.
    -I’ve been using the same insulated ones for 4 years now, and I always dishwash all the parts, and they still don’t leak.
    -The valves don’t fall out when dropped or shaken the way they do in other cups (we once had a Gerber, and that valve would fall out way too easily).
    -They also allow the child to continue drinking without stopping to let air back into the cup, which is great for my formerly breastfed toddler. With other cups he will stop drinking when the flow stops, and I usually need to push liquids with him.
    -When my children were first learning to use sippys, they didn’t know to tip them up enough and the weight of the liquid made it harder to do… the Playtex trainer cups with handles were the best for them, as the spout is closer to the edge than on the other brands, so they didn’t have to tip the cup as drastically.

  14. posted by am on

    Adult sippies: The Camelbak Better Bottle:

    These are cool because they don’t leak and are easy to drink from when driving, etc because you don’t have to tip your head back to drink. They also have a handle of sorts that makes it easy to carry with one finger or clip to your bag.

  15. posted by betsy on

    My son would tell you that the sippies posted above are the superior model because they have Elmo on them. There is also a Thomas the Tank Engine version. Clearly, the best chocie.

  16. posted by zaf on

    Take it easy. Any child from 1 year old can learn to drink from a real cup!
    Yess, she will spill some, but then will the sippies! Besides, the only drink a child should drink all day is water. If you let it drink milk, juice or (argh!) lemonade from a sippy cup it can severely damage her teeth.

  17. posted by Lizzie on

    My daughter is now three and a half, but my sage sippy advice is to find the brand (I think it’s Playtex) where you can buy a package of replacement valves separately and go with it. Because the valves do give way before the rest of the cup. For big kids (like mine), I still want a controlled situation in the car. (She may be good with a normal water bottle, but occasionally all hell breaks loose.) I love the bottles that Target had this summer which are two piece with an additional piece that goes in the freezer and keeps the water deliciously cold for hours.

  18. posted by Jennie on

    I use 3-piece cups but my clutter solution is to just have two cups. Sure, I have to wash them every night, but they’re not in my cabinet and I’m not losing pieces since they’re always in use.

  19. posted by Swistle on

    I like the totally plain First Years ones, which are a little trick to find–but they’re the very basic sippee cups with a flat lid and small spout. The lid doesn’t screw on, so the cups also work fine as regular cups after the sippee is no longer required. And the sippee lids stack into each other, as do the cups.

  20. posted by Colin on

    Obviously other’s mileage varies, but I’ve always found the two piece cups to be a waste of time for leak control. And we’ve yet to lose a valve. The net time savings of washing 2 pieces versus three is nugatory; the time spent cleaning the car or the rug is not. Frankly I could save more time by taking 10 minutes a month off reading blog feeds… but where would the fun be in that?

    Incidentally, when they get a little bigger, SIGG water bottles are effectively indestructible, and marginally less horrendous for mobile water consumption than plastic bottles bought 24 at a time.

  21. posted by Amanda on

    Forget concern about pieces, I would pay a gajillion dollars and be up to my eyebrows in plastic just to avoid giving my son something with stupid commercial characters on them. There is no reason that he needs a reminder to ask for toys every time he has a drink.

  22. posted by Hanmee on

    I’ve tried to give my kids klean kanteen containers b/c they are steel, but they both (ages 1 and 3) seem perplexed by the sports bottle top and take in too much – so work in progress. (The older has used sippy, straw, and regular cups.)

    The older one can drink from a cup, and does, but when we are trying to minimize spillage (car, other parts of the house), we give him the straw insulated cups from Playtex.

    I try to avoid the plastics, but the playtex insulated straw cups is the #5s, which isn’t so bad (and is the plastic material found in products like Klean kanteen for the plastic portions).

    The 1-year-old will NOT have anything to do with a sippy cup. I was trying to transition her from the bottle, but she refuses to really get anything from them. She does know how to drink from a straw cup so it’s either that or the bottle (though I sometimes sit with her with a regular cup and give her sips).

    I also remember reading articles awhile back how sippy cups were not as good for development because of the way they require your tongue to be positioned, but I don’t remember when/where I saw that one.

  23. posted by Hanmee on

    Oops. Forgot the clutter aspect. Yeah, there are two parts to the straw, but it’s not really much effort. Since we bought several of them, we don’t have to worry about mix/match.

  24. posted by plain jane on

    I would rather have a sippy cup without the licensed characters. We have a Nuby cup that we are both enjoying.

  25. posted by Pattie on

    regarding the clean kanteen, they now make a model that takes the avent sippy spouts

  26. posted by Lisa on

    One factor you missed with the Avent cups — they’re one of only a few models that comes with a lid for travel. Almost all our bottles come with a lid, why not sippy cups?

    I will sacrifice number of parts for cleanliness and portability.

  27. posted by Karen the Californian on

    In my opinion, sorry, but Avent cups are horrible. How many parts are there to clean? There’s the cup, the collar, the spout, the two-part valve, and the cap. Am I missing any pieces?

    And then what I hate about the Playtex sippies is the fact that I don’t feel like I’m getting the valve clean. Sure you can soap it, but really, is water pressure from the faucet good enough to get it clean? Even after the sippy was found under the couch two days after it was lost? The valve is so tiny that I’d have to bust out the nipple brush to wash it. I’ve breastfed for over a year with each child and didn’t have to deal with nipple brushes that often — I’m not about to start now, just so I can wash a little sippy valve. So that brings me to my favorite sippy:

    If you want a simple sippy that is about as leak-resistant as the Playtex one, take a look at I get mine at Babies R Us and I love them. The lid’s got a flip-top that keeps the spout clean. There’s exactly two pieces — the cup and the spout. The flip-top is attached to the spout by a hinge, and the whole assembly is easy to clean. The valve is a membrane that’s smoothly integrated into the spout. And the inside of the spout is wide enough that I feel confident that it’s clean when I’m done washing it, and I don’t need a nipple brush! (Heck, it’s wide enough for my thumb!) And it’s got handles. The handles are great because I could attach toy chain links to it and attach it to the stroller — no more dropped sippies! And no licensed characters to boot.

    The sippies pictured are made by the same company. The spouts/valves are the same, and are just as easy to clean. Only problem is, there’s the pesky licensed characters.

    Nuby sippies seem to be similar to my favorite kind, but I’ve never tried those. My friend used them, though, and she loved them.

  28. posted by sylvia on

    I really like the cheapo 2-piece sippy cup from Target (labeled as disposable/reusable, but we’ve been reusing them for at least a year now, and running them through the diswasher, and they still work great). I believe they were 6 for $2.99. They’re not spill-proof, but I just took them away when my children were deliberatly shaking them to get water out. Also, I only allowed milk at the table.

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