Babies and Open Cups

I posted this picture on Facebook a couple days ago. I really put it up there because it made me giggle so much that my toddler, G., had requested salad for breakfast that morning. (And I gave it to her– I’m that kind of mom, in case you were ever wondering.)


It wasn’t the lettuce that caught my friend Amy‘s attention, however– it was the open cup. She and I share a similar cup philosophy, it seems, so it stood out to her. I hadn’t really noticed it in the photo because, you see, G. has been using an open cup since well before her first birthday. In fact, shocking as this may be to some people, G. has never used a sippy cup.


Now, I have pretty strong feelings about sippy cups, to be honest. I’ve written about that before. (You should know, before you click, that I wrote that post back in my earlier, feistier blogging days when I let my opinion fly a lot more freely. I still feel much the same way, but I’d probably be gentler in my delivery these days. ;)) I am not in any way opposed to toddlers having sippy cups. But I just don’t like cleaning them. I also think it’s easier to teach a baby how to use an open cup than it is to teach a preschooler. Skeptical? Well, here’s what I’ve observed.


Babies are primed to learn cause and effect.


Ever watched a baby around nine months old in a high chair? What do they start doing all the time? Dropping things. It’s a whole new world to them– and one they control. Babies adore dropping things and seeing what happens. Will it make a noise? Go splat? Will you pick it up? How many TIMES will you pick it up? They love it. And they learn, very quickly, how cause and effect work together.


To me, this makes it the perfect time to introduce an open cup. If you hand an eleven-month-old an open cup with a little water in it, what do you suppose he’ll do? The answer is simple– dump it out. Perhaps on the table, perhaps on himself, but he WILL pour the water out. And guess what? He’ll figure that out. He’ll learn that, if he wishes to actually get something from that cup like you seem to, he needs to get it to his mouth. And then he’ll dump it down his chin. And he’ll keep tweaking and re-trying until, voila, he’s drinking from a cup.


I know that sounds really over-simplified, but I honestly believe that babies learn to use open cups rather quickly. Toddlers and preschoolers can certainly learn too but, by then, they can be stubborn, attached, and resistent to change. They’re also confused. Face it– you’ve given them a cup for years now that, when tipped upside-down, holds the liquid in. Is it any surprise that they can’t grasp the “open” concept right away?


So there you go. Give your babies open cups. Leaving aside the fact that it’s better for their teeth and develops different oral muscles, it just makes your life easier down the road. I truly believe that. Just be prepared for people to be amazed– toddlers with open cups are pretty counter-cultural these days. ;)


(*Because I know someone will ask– What about when you’re out or on the road? Do you really give your young toddler an open cup then? My answer is simple: the straw is your friend. Cups with straws discourage spills and encourage another valuable drinking skill. Most of us will, at times, drink from a straw throughout our lives.)

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14 comments to Babies and Open Cups

  • Melissa D

    Thank you for this! We have an eight month old and I couldn’t remember what I did with our older daughter! :)

  • Yay for the open cup! Call me a lazy mom, but I hate cleaning those silly sippy cups. I’ve tossed a few moldy lids in my mothering days. Ick.

    I will say the whole open cup thing is likely my preference only because my children drink WATER. ;) At least, at first. My 20 month old totally downed his sister’s post-t-ball-practice Gatorade the other night. I think about 5 parents around me wanted to grab it from him so he wouldn’t spill. He didn’t. LOL

    Lest you think I have perfect children (hahaHA) the same stinker intentionally DUMPED a water bottle on himself in the van yesterday. “Uh-Oh. Gol Gone. Wet.” Um, yes.

    • We start with only water– for a good while, I’d say. By somewhere in the 18 month to 2 year range, they usually drink milk that way, too (since I’ve never had one choose to nurse past then). And there is simply no doubt we still have spills– but I’d say the 2yo does as well as the 6yo in our house. ;)

  • Laraba

    I have embraced sippy cups with fervor because in my mind, they are easier. I totally think open cups and what you do is cool — for me, with a bunch of kids close together, I just didn’t want to bother with the training part of it. Yep, I’m lazy sometimes :-). We run ours through the dishwasher on a very hot cycle so they are clean. None of my kids have had a huge problem with the transition. Around age 3 or 4 they decide that sippy cups are too babyish and they want to switch.

    • I think that’s fantastic! I am not really “anti-sippy cup” (well, except when I see really big kids drinking soda out of them or something ;)). This is just what works for us and, in my case, it was easier. I’m glad your dishwasher does a good job with them! Maybe mine was old or something but it never really got the valves clean and that icked me out. (And I”m kind of lazy about hand scrubbing. *blush*)

  • I have only the valveless kind. I’m thinking of just throwing the lids out so Gus can either dehydrate or drink without it. I’m assuming he’ll opt not to dehydrate. He is really digging in his heels though. He’s opposed to a straw, can, regular cup. He also opposed to shorts, the toilet, long socks. He is a persnickety thing.

  • Celine

    I hate sippy cups but honestly admitt that my kids rarely have a cup without a lid. Even my 4yr old. I think it would be an entirely different situation if our entire place including the eating area wasn’t carpeted. Straws just end up being something they fool around with. Tried water bottles and they just destroyed the mouth piece.

    • Oh, gracious, having all-over carpet is a game changer! We have hardwood everywhere here– well, tile in the kitchen– so spills are easily dealt with. There are lots of things to take into account.

  • Shirnell

    To make a very long story short, my in-laws ended up raising my two step-sons and had them on sippy cups forever. I believe they finally quit the sippy last year when my boys were 4 and 5. They are digging those cups with the straws attached. My daughter, who is 8 months, prefers straw cups. She can drink from an open cup and does so during bath time. Something about slightly soapy water must be delicious!

  • Christine

    I get asked all of the time if I want a sippy for my two-year-old, and I think people are shocked that he hasn’t used a cup with a lid (kept the valve out – not as messy to clean AND you don’t need to worry about keeping track of the thing!) since well before he was two. I was shocked once when I was outside to see two neighborhood kids with sippy cups looking out their window, one aged two, the other, six. SIX!
    PS- All of mine like tub water. And sandbox water. And pretty much anything that they are not supposed to drink :)

    • I’ve heard that valve tip before, Christine– it’s a good one! I always hated trying to scrub those things. Two-year-olds with open cups are just a rarity in our society… I never even think about it, but I always get looks and surprised comments from people. Makes me giggle a bit. :)

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