December 07, 2008

Sippy Cup Design Study: We Have Our Winner

After 2.25 years and numerous sippy cups, it's become clear to me that the Playtex sippy cup variety pictured above is, for our purposes, the big winner. And now that they are sold without BPAs, I can recommend them with a clear conscience.

A design review:
  • Handles essential. Hook side-handles rather than closed rings highly preferred. So you can hook the sippy cup in your pocket while you carry a yodeling toddler down the hall. So you can hook it in the seat pocket on an airplane. Et cetera. We've had various kinds, and this arrangement just seems more handy, more often.
  • Translucent plastic, rather than opaque. So you can see in there! Are there dried-on milk rings that need to be scrubbed? Floating crumbs? Toy soldiers? Translucence is key.
  • Wide and sturdy rather than tall and narrow. If the valve is leaking, or missing (an inevitability, eventually), the cup is just a bit less likely to tip over and make an issue of itself. If the lid happens to be off, for grown-up style drinking (also know as "going commando"), the wide base makes it easier for little ones to successfully pick the sippy up and set it back down. And it's easier to clean with a regular kitchen sponge (rather than a wee bottle brush), because you can get your hand in there. It can also fit a conventional kitchen brush . Or even a rag on a stick . (Rag-on-a-stickers, you know who you are.)
  • Since toddler hands can fit into this cup as well, it can be used in a pinch as a to-go container for Cheerios, goldfish, or their organic, whole-wheat-based, non-hydrogenated equivalents.
  • The sippy can be dropped, but the valve will generally stay snugly in place. One higher-end BPA-free brand of sippy cup has a white plastic valve piece (nestled up under the cap) that tends to fall out if the cup is dropped, leaving the valve floating around in the beverage. Sippy cups get dropped constantly, of course, so this is super-lame. The cute Sigg aluminum bottles that everyone is buying like crazy happen to dent and ding like crazy. And their cute Swiss paint jobs start to flake off rather quickly (yikes).
  • It's not only possible to clean the very inventive, very simple Playtex valve assembly (one gold star), it's actually sort of easy to do so (three gold stars!). The otherwise stellar reputation of Avent products does not make up for a valve design that is fussy and really tough to clean. Born Free cups : basically uncleanable. If used for milk, liable to start smelling quickly. The Siggs are worse here: I was amazed at how quickly milk (and toddler-backwash) sours in contact with the metal of those bottles. If the breakfast-time Sigg bottle happens to be left sitting out in the few hours til lunch, trying opening it up and sniffing the rim of the bottle. Not good. If it was accidentally left in a diaper bag overnight (which does happen from time to time)...."it would be bad.")
  • This sippy involves 3 pieces, sum total. (see also: easy to clean; easy for family friends and relatives to figure out without instructions; easy to keep track of.)

Downsides of the winning sippy cup

  • Not dishwasher-safe. But nothing in this category is, really; and the aluminum Sigg bottles aren't, either. We bought one, and I read the instructions very closely. Hand wash! Hello, wee bottle brush.
  • Relatively soft plastic on the mouthpiece. As a sort of absentminded tic, or perhaps a hobby, Elliot gnaws, digs at, penetrates, and generally destroys mouthpieces and straws, whether they are hard or soft plastic. In end, the result is always the same; the softer plastic just means we have to get rid of the sippy head sooner.
Elliot is getting on in years, so some may be wondering why, or if, we still need sippy cups.

We so do.

As an example, I flew four flights on Northwest Airlines over Thanksgiving, in the company of my very milk-oriented son. On none of those flights was there any milk available for purchase or barter! I guess Northwest has stopped serving milk, even with coffee. Adapting to this, I brought along, for the 3-hour flight from Minneapolis to Salt Lake City (a leg where I flew solo with him), an eight-ounce cup of milk I purchased from the airport Starbucks -- clear plastic cup, clear plastic lid, green straw.

What was I thinking??

The crawling, the peekaboo (the tipping over), the bumping around; the accelerating during takeoff (the tipping over); the banking; the rolling around; the giggling (the straw getting bent down and then flipped up repeatedly, flinging dots of milk on the walls, on the seats, on my glasses, in his hair). The crushing of the crushable plastic sides of the cup (the spilling on the seat). Have we ever mentioned that Elliot cries over spilled milk? He does. He says (in a mournful, drawn-out kind of Eliza Doolittle elocution), "What haaaaappened?" over and over. Our standard answers ("Well, buddy, some expensive organic dairy product got spilled on this here naugahide seat cushion/flotation device") don't seem to satisfy the question he's actually asking. So he takes my chin in his hands (he does) and looks me full in the face and asks again, forlornly, "Wha'huuuappennned?" and a big pearly tear is stripped away from the corner of his eye.

And a little drop of my soul (of the same size and shape) goes spinning out the back of the plane.

We got two new sippy cups at Target today, and I feel great about them.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes your are right, NW stopped serving milk in the summer when panic set in with $151 barrel oil. Also gone are lemon and limes. Hopefully when NW is harmonized with Delta while merging, these condiments will return.

Be Like the Squirrel, Girl said...

Oh, I wish I had read this fine post BEFORE buying the Avent AND the Born Free cups which Penny has not mastered whatsoever. What has been working (and by working I mean most of the liquid ends up in her mouth instead of down her front) are some generic BPA free cups ("First Year?") with little sippy lids I found at Smith's. But good to know the Playtex ones are now BPA free as well. Also, as an editorial comment, I like how one of the BOOKS strongly encourages mastering a regular cup before starting on a sippy. Huh? No. We so need a sippy.

P.S. Rag on a STICK? LMAO.

w. wilson said...

Well. We politely disagree (Katie? Are you reading this?). We have found that the less we use sippy cups, the less we need them. After all, people did without them for a long time, right? Airplanes being a worthy exception of course, given that all bets are off. But giving G lots of opportunities to drink out of a real cup has made him more able to handle one, FWIW.

And, um, I don't think it's recommended to put milk in a Sigg.

Amy E said...

B, I like how your emotional sensitivities increase with your fatherdom. It shows in your writing, as well as your face.

Kelli said...

Now that we are embarking on the no-nipple journey ourselves, I so appreciate this post. Especially as I will be flying solo with Darwin (wait, is that an oxymoron?) for Christmas. To Target we go!

Sheree, J, + j said...

Here's my 2 bits.
1-Thanks for the post. I'll have to try your fave.
2-I like our Avent cups. I just pull the silicone disk off and throw it in the small parts dishwasher thingy. Cumbersome handles optional.
3-We mostly use the generic 5 packs of First Years cups, sans valves and handles. No big investment on something that will be lost under the bed/couch/carseats. Even without valves, accidental spills are minor. Major spills are confined to deliberate shaking of upside down cup on dinner plate. Available with straws for convenient smoothy sipping (the only way Jackson gets fruits/veggies). The handles really annoy me, so I'm glad they don't have them. But don't try to stash these in a bag--you will have empty cups with wet luggage, but this isn't a problem for around the house. #5 plastic (BPA is in #7--the hard polycarbonate type). The holes in the sippy are kinda small, so we enlarge them with the tip of a small nail.
6-Teach your children early to drink from straws and keep some in your purse for emergencies.
7-Regular cups are fun, but so is throwing cups. Also, the glass ones will shatter on our hard floors, and the plastic ones are usually polycarbonate (BPA alert). Recommendations on regular cups are being taken.

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