Sippy Cups

If you’re not a parent and don’t know what a sippy cup is, I assure you it’s an awesome invention. It’s a spill-proof drinking device that helps teach toddlers how to drink and handle liquids in cups. It helps parents ween toddlers off bottles, while boosting confidence. According to Wikipedia, sippy cups work “by way of surface tension that prevents liquid from being spilled even when the cup is upended.”

But for all the benefits of sippy cups, they introduce a new kind of havoc. The success of the original concept has prompted many copycats and variations. Despite incremental improvements, the crowded space has resulted in sippy-cups that include up to six separate parts that must be disassembled for washing, and reassembled for use. The result for families with toddlers, who accumulate many brands of sippy cups in a short period, is a giant collection of mostly incompatible sippy-cup parts. They must be sorted and pieced together on a daily basis, as constant and challenging as the daily crossword puzzle. This is not a slight inconvenience, but a major task and source of frustration, especially for an invention that simply needs to work. As you can see in the photo above, the daily emptying of the dishwasher in our home means somebody has to piece together dozens of sippy-cup parts every day. That’s usually me.

Solution: It would be great if the sippy-cup manufacturing industry could agree on design standards, so there are not so many incompatible parts to manage. Alternatively, my advice for new parents is simply to pick one model of sippy cup and stick with it for the course of their toddler-rearing years. If you have one or two toddlers, it would be wise to invest in 10 of them at once. While you’re bound to lose parts here and there, at least they’ll all work together, and you’ll have less to piece together.

(The sippy-cup dilemna closely resemebles that of the electronics industry, with its abundance of incompatible but necessary remotes.)

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Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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17 Comments

  1. We're just starting to transition to sippy cups and despite claims of “no leak” seals, my son has managed to chew through every kind of top there is and make the cups leak. We can't figure out if the ones with handles or without are best. Should we get cups with straws or without? I think we're just going to go with the old Tupperware standby from when I was a child. I think I still have all the cups and seals I “borrowed” from my parents when I moved away from home more than 15 years ago.

  2. Max- of much greater concern than incompatible parts is plastics. Choose a brand that makes metal or glass cups. At the very least, keep those plastics out of the dishwasher.

  3. Juliette, that's a very good point. We've actually been purchasing the “safe
    plastics,” but agree…we'd be better off without any plastics. We'll have
    to do something about that.

  4. Metal or glass? For a toddler? Metal maybe, if you're willing to put up with dents, but my 8 month old routinely drops his sippy cup on the floor. A glass sippy cup would be a thrice daily disaster.

    After someone brought it up on my podcast a few months ago, we switched to BPA-free plastic sippy cups.

  5. Good post, Max. We try to stay away from cups that have more parts than just bottom/lid/valve, but we do have a couple that have 3-4 piece straws that need to be assembled. Pretty silly, really.

    We must shop in the same place – we have that Diego cup, too. And if I'm not mistaken, the one to the left of it is a Dora cup? That style cup worked out for us really well when my daughter graduated past the cups with handles. Awesome for taking in the car.

  6. Gee, while “the industry” is standardizing sippy cup design to one design standard, why not just appoint one company to manufacture all sippy cups to that standard?

    Doesn't that sound silly? But, what you're suggesting with your first option is to kill competition and subsequently, capitalism.

    Think about why you've bought or been given sippy cups of different design. Different people think different designs work better than others. You experiment until we find something that works just for you.

    I, for one, do not want to live in a world of white Priuses and khaki unisex coveralls. I want red Ferreris and dresses by Pucci, too!

    So, put away the ones that don't do it for you or give them away and just use the one design that works for you and your toddler. But, please, leave me with lots of choices in sippy cups and in life!

  7. I beg to differ. I'm certainly not asking to kill capitalism. I
    sarcastically suggested some mild cooperation to address a tragedy of the
    commons. Industries (and their competitors within) very often work together
    on standards in order to reduce market friction and thereby grow the entire
    market. The theory is that all boats rise or sink with the tide. In
    practicality, I concur that won't happen in the sippy cup industry. I think
    picking just one make of sippy cup is the most feasible solution. In the
    spirit of capitalism, let the best competitor win. Further in spirit of
    capitalism, let some ambitious inventor create a better mousetrap…I mean,
    sippy cup.

  8. That's more than a little extreme, Lydia. Many industries, healthy industries, have standards for products across the board. Companies realized that parts of a product can be standardized so the consumers can easily work with a range of products – the overall products themselves can be very, very different. Think of the headphones that plug into your iPod or CD player. There are hundreds to choose from, all very different, but they all use the same standard plug to connect to your player.

    Nobody is suggesting khaki unisex coveralls.

  9. I give thanks regularly to the unsung standards in everyday products. Aren't you glad all rolls of toilet paper and paper towels have the same width?

  10. We solved this in our house. We only buy Sesame Street and Disney ones. Only TWO parts. Cup and Lid, that's it. Of course, our little guy isn't working the straws yet, but I think we just won't ever let him.

    Agree with soxgal though, that these two piecers do leak a bit when your child heaves them across the room and/or chews on the mouthpiece endlessly whilst teething.

  11. A solution to the few minor leaks with the two-piece cup would be to
    limit the fluids to clear (milk would be the exception). A few drops
    of clear liquids? That's toerable.

  12. We solved this in our house. We only buy Sesame Street and Disney ones. Only TWO parts. Cup and Lid, that's it. Of course, our little guy isn't working the straws yet, but I think we just won't ever let him.

    Agree with soxgal though, that these two piecers do leak a bit when your child heaves them across the room and/or chews on the mouthpiece endlessly whilst teething.

  13. A solution to the few minor leaks with the two-piece cup would be to
    limit the fluids to clear (milk would be the exception). A few drops
    of clear liquids? That's toerable.

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