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Child Development


When Should Your Toddler Start Drinking From an Open Cup?

toddler drinking from cup

When Should Your Toddler Start Drinking From an Open Cup?

It is a very exciting moment when your child learns to drink out of an open cup during their meals and snacks. It may be a while until they reach this milestone, but once they are able to enjoy their beverages as Mom and Dad do, it is truly a special sight. Today, we will talk about when you can expect your toddler to start drinking from an open cup, the signs that they may be ready, and some tricks to help them if they are hesitant to learn.

Key Points of Toddlers Using Open Cups

  • It differs by child so there's no hard and fast rule for when toddlers should be able an open. Go slow and use your best judgment with child-safe cups.
  • There are multiple ways to encourage your child to use an an open cup. Using fun colors, characters from their favorite story, and child-sized cups for ease of lifting.
  • If they are surprised by the way thinner liquids like milk or water flow quickly to their mouths, you can try thicker liquids and smaller amounts when they're first starting.

When Most Toddlers Start Drinking From an Open Cup

toddler drinking from sip cup
Many toddlers will drink out of sip cups before turning to open cups.

©Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com

Your babies will go through many stages when it comes to drinking and getting the hydration that they need. Many children will go from breastfeeding or bottles to sippy cups and then eventually to the open cup. 

It is important to remember that there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to the age that most toddlers will start using an open cup. Some children will learn this skill and use it successfully as soon as six months. However, many children learn by eight months, and some children will not start until they are one year old. 

Signs That They May Be Close

There are numerous signs that you can watch out for that will tell you when your child is ready to start learning to use an open cup. One of the first signs that you might notice is that they start to reach for your open cup or the open cups of their siblings. That may be an indication that they want to imitate the behavior. Another sign is that you can see that your toddler is doing well drinking from a graduated bottle with a level 3 or 4 nipple. 

Once they are at that level, you will also want to ensure that they can sit up by themselves while on the floor because if they can’t handle one skill, then they won’t be ready to sit and drink at the same time. Plus, your toddler should also have good head control, so they don’t make a mess when it comes time to use that open cup. 

If you see many of these signs and realize that they may be ready for this exciting milestone, then you should help them to practice holding an empty open cup while maintaining good control. Once they can hold it, the parents can mimic putting the cup to their mouth so their toddler will do the same. When your child masters these movements, then they are likely ready to start practicing drinking fluid out of that open cup.

Teaching Your Toddler To Drink From An Open Cup

toddler drinking from open cup
Teach your toddler to keep a firm grip on the cup.


As soon as your toddler starts displaying the signs that they are ready to start drinking from an open cup, you can start to show them how it is done. The first step is to ensure that they have the strength to hold the bottom of the cup with their lower lip. 

Next, place their hands on the cup and put your hands over theirs. This will allow them to get used to the motion and help them to feel like they are fully in control.

Once they are at that point, a parent should hold the cup up and slightly tilt it so that just a small bit of liquid starts coming to their lips. Give your child time to adjust to the fluid going into their mouth, and then make sure that they can properly swallow. Try this a few times, and then let your child hold the cup themselves and watch them carefully until you can see that they have mastered the art.

Consider A Straw For Less Mess

Even if your toddler shows great promise at drinking from their cup, you might consider helping them to drink out of a straw instead. When they use a straw, they are still performing a similar action to drinking from the open cup, but there is much less of a chance of a big mess or a spill onto the table and floor. There may be a bit of a learning curve as your baby learns how to suck the liquid into the straw, but they will get it with practice. 

If your toddler isn't taking very well to using a straw, you can try a smaller cup. Not only is it less weight but also less liquid if they end up spilling their cup. Plastic, wood, or other child-safe non-breakable cups are ideal for their first times.

Tips For Getting Your Toddler Excited About Using An Open Cup

If the one-year mark has come and gone, your child is able to sit up on their own, and they can control their bottle or sippy cup just fine, but they just don’t seem motivated to start drinking from an open cup, then there are some tactics that you can use to get them more excited. 

For starters, you can limit the chances that your child gets to drink out of their sippy cup and mix in the open cup from time to time. So, that could mean allowing them to use the sippy cup for breakfast and lunch but providing the open cup at dinner. When you do this, talk to them about how fun it is to drink out of an open cup and how they can be like mommy and daddy if they do.

If your child seems hesitant because they are nervous about what to do when the liquid starts entering their mouth, then you can try to get past that issue by putting thicker liquid in the cup. A thicker beverage, like a yogurt snack, smoothie, or watered-down applesauce, will make its way down the cup slower so your child can better anticipate when it will go into their mouth. 

Finally, if all else fails, then you can try to make learning to drink from an open cup more fun by purchasing cups that feature their favorite color, cartoon character, or animal.

Commonly Asked Questions

While all kids will learn eventually, teaching your kids to start drinking from an open cup will not always be the straightforward process described here. There can be many variables. The commonly asked questions and answers below may be helpful.

Q. What should parents put in the child’s cup?

A. Start with water or breastmilk or formula, so they are familiar with the fluid.

Q. How much water can toddlers have at this age?

A. Only about 1-2 oz, as it shouldn’t replace their milk.

Q. Should I put juice in the cup?

A. Most experts recommend skipping juice unless your child needs it for constipation issues. Otherwise, juice isn’t very healthy for toddlers.

Q. How much fluid do kids and toddlers need each day?

A. Toddlers aged 1-3 should stick to 4-6 cups. Starting from age 4, they should have at least seven cups.

Q. Should I let my child practice on their own with the open cup?

A. You can, but don’t leave fluid inside, as they can easily tip it over and make a mess.

As you can see, there are some different variables that go into understanding when your toddler can start drinking from an open cup. In general, they should learn how to do so by the time they turn 1-year-old. Consider the advice here, and your child will master the art in no time.

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