Picks

The Best Kids Water Bottles

Easy to clean and easy to use.

child with water bottle
Photo: Rozette Rago

We spent 40 hours testing five popular water bottles for kids from toddler to tween and found that the best steel option is the Thermos Funtainer 12-Ounce Water Bottle, and the best plastic one is the CamelBak Eddy Kids 12 Ounce. The Klean Kanteen Kid Classic Sport is a great steel option for older kids. All three are easier to clean and easier for kids to use than other bottles we considered, which means fewer obstacles to keeping your child well hydrated.

Our pick

The Thermos Funtainer is our favorite kids water bottle because it’s the easiest one to use. Our youngest testers were able to open and close the cap on their own, and its button-release cap design keeps grubby fingers off the straw, prevents leaks, and also makes the top less likely to get dirtied when dropped compared with other straw bottles we tested. With only four parts, the Thermos is easy for parents to take apart and wash, and it’s safe in the top rack of the dishwasher. Its vacuum insulation technology keeps drinks chilled for up to 12 hours.

Thermos Funtainer

Thermos Funtainer

The Thermos Funtainer is an easy-to-clean bottle with a straw, the simplest for younger kids to open and close by themselves.

Also great

We like the Klean Kanteen Kid Classic Sport for older kids, who are generally better able to open and close the sport cap than toddlers (if not properly closed, the sports cap is prone to leaking). Klean Kanteen doesn’t offer a top with a straw, which may make it more challenging for younger kids to use without a sippy top (our other picks have straws). The Klean Kanteen is the easiest to wash, with just two parts, one of which can go into the dishwasher. The bottle is sturdy and dependable, and can last for years.

Kleen Kanteen

Kleen Kanteen Kid Classic Sport

The Klean Kanteen is the easiest to clean of the bottles we tested and can be used with a sippy top, sports cap, or screw-on top.

Our pick

The durable CamelBak Eddy Kids 12 Ounce is the lightest of our picks, thanks to its plastic construction. It’s simpler for young kids to use than the other popular plastic model we tested. The CamelBak’s bite valve prevents the bottle from leaking, even with the spout open and held upside down. Yanking the valve out of place, however, can cause major leaking, and the valve may not survive heavy chewing (but is also replaceable). The dishwasher-safe bottle comes apart easily for adults to clean, though the valve’s interior crevices require a little more attention to clean than the Thermos’s straw. If your kid is the type to mess with the spout, you may want to consider the Thermos Funtainer or Klean Kanteen.

CamelBak water bottle

CamelBak Eddy Kids 12 Ounce

The CamelBak Eddy is a straw bottle that’s a breeze to take apart for cleaning and is basic for young kids to use, but can leak.

Why you should trust us

To research this guide, I drew on the research and conclusions from Wirecutter’s guide to adult water bottles and also combed through online reviews of kids and adult water bottles from BabyGearLabOutdoorGearLabYour Best Digs, and more. I also read reports about the health concerns for BPATritan, and other plastics, as well as fears about lead exposure in certain designs of stainless steel water bottles.

To learn about their gripes, needs, and recommendations, I surveyed 30 parents and caregivers of young children through social media, local parenting groups, and in person. I also chatted with school-age children about the water bottles they and their friends use.

I’ve written for the San Francisco Chronicle and other major newspapers, and have reported on family and parenting for publications such as Family Circle, Working Mother, and Salon. I also wrote the Wirecutter guide to diaper bags. I have three children, ages 2, 8, and 10, and our family has purchased, lost, and replaced our share of water bottles. We rely on them daily for school, sports, and trips to the park.

Who this is for

This guide covers water bottles for young children, from toddlers who have graduated from sippy cups to children in the first few years of elementary school.

By about age 10, children will likely need to consume more water and may opt for a larger water bottle, especially if they play sports. For that, check out our picks for the best water bottles.

How we picked

assorted water bottles
Photo: Rozette Rago

Water bottles are a standard item for many kids, whether for school, camp, sports, or outings. Young children may also need to pack a water bottle for daycare or preschool, which means they will need to be able to open and close it on their own. We reviewed water bottles based on the following criteria:

Ease of cleaning: The bottle should be easy to take apart to hand-wash, with a minimal number of pieces and no tight crevices. Being able to send it through a dishwasher was considered a signficant plus but not necessary.

Ease of use: We examined only 12-ounce and 14-ounce water bottles, which are compact enough to fit in a lunch box and in small hands. Two- and 3-year-olds should be able to use the water bottle on their own.

Tendency to leak: No water bottle is completely leak- or spill-proof, so we looked for the ones that were the least likely to leak.

Material: Plastic’s advantages are that it’s lighter than stainless steel, so kids are less likely to complain it’s too heavy; parents can readily see how much water their child has consumed; and the bottles are generally cheaper than those made from metal or glass. Some people have concerns about the safety of using plastic water bottles, and while there’s no conclusive evidence that drinking from plastic harms people, stainless steel is a good alternative. Steel bottles are also generally more durable than plastic: Although they get dented and scuffed more easily, they hold up for years. We did not consider glass, which tends to be heavy and has more potential to break. Because many kids like to chew on straws and are generally hard on their water bottles, we gave points to bottles with replaceable parts.

Price: Given the odds that your child will lose a water bottle (or two or three), we did not consider water bottles that cost more than $20. We found in our research that bottles that cost more don’t perform better or offer more convenience than those below our price cap.

Finally, we narrowed our choices down by polling the parents among Wirecutter’s staff and zeroing in on the most popular recommendations:

CamelBak Eddy Kids 12 Ounce

Contigo Autospout Straw Gizmo 14 Ounce

Klean Kanteen Kid Classic Sport

Thermos Funtainer 12-Ounce Water Bottle

How we tested

assorted water bottles in the sand
Photo: Ellen Lee

We spent 10 hours taking our water bottles out and about, including leaving them in a hot car, toting them around in a bag on public transit, and taking them to the park. We stuck to testing with water, though we realize some parents fill these bottles with milk or other beverages.

We repeatedly dropped the bottles into the sand from a play structure about 2 feet above the ground. We wanted to see how easily the spouts popped open, and how grimy and dirty they would get (verdict: pretty gross).

We also tested how they were to clean. Upon returning from the park, we took apart the bottles and hand-washed them. For the ones that allowed it, we also sent them through the dishwasher.

For the leak test, we filled each bottle with 1 cup of water and added food coloring. We placed the bottles in a neoprene lunch bag and knocked it off our kitchen countertop, from a height of about 3 feet. Then we laid the bottles on their side overnight on paper towels and looked for evidence of leakage the next morning.

Then we tested opening and closing the bottles, handing them to 10 kids ages 2 to 10. For insulated bottles we filled them with 1 cup of water and three ice cubes and monitored the temperature at regular intervals for the period with which they claim to keep liquids cool.

Three Wirecutter editors also had their children take the water bottles for test spins, trying them out for several weeks, and gave feedback on their experiences.

Our stainless steel pick: Thermos Funtainer

Child drinking from Thermos Funtainer
Photo: Rozette Rago

The stainless steel Thermos Funtainer is our favorite kids water bottle because it’s easier to clean than other strawed bottles, the most manageable for little hands, and the least likely to leak. Plus, its vacuum insulation keeps liquids cool for 12 hours. It comes in a series of fun colors and designs, from Hello Kitty to Star Wars.

One of the Thermos Funtainer’s advantages is that it is easy to take apart for cleaning: Removing the plastic straw and silicone spout requires little effort. Also, the Funtainer does not have tiny, hard-to-reach crevices, making the bottle less likely to develop mold, a common complaint about the Contigo, one of the bottles we tested. Thermos recommends hand-washing, but also says that the Funtainer is top-rack dishwasher safe, and many parents, some Wirecutter staff included, report having no issues cleaning them exclusively in the dishwasher.

Thermos Funtainer

Thermos Funtainer

The Thermos Funtainer is an easy-to-clean bottle with a straw, the simplest for younger kids to open and close by themselves.

Thermos Funtainer
The Thermos Funtainer has four parts, all of which can go on the top rack of the dishwasher, though the company recommends hand-washing.
Photo: Rozette Rago

Unlike the straws on the CamelBak and Contigo, the Thermos’s silicone straw is protected by a lid; press a button to pop open the lid and push it down to snap closed, without touching the straw. Our 2- and 3-year-old testers found that the Funtainer was the easiest bottle to open and close on their own. Not too much dexterity is required, unlike with the straw on the Contigo, which often popped open again because their fingers couldn’t push it down firmly enough. On some versions of the Funtainer, the lid has a flip-up handle built into it, which can be used to clip the bottle to a backpack.

Closing the Funtainer’s cap keeps the bottle from leaking. In our testing, the Thermos Funtainer did not leak after being left on its side with its lid on for 10 hours. It also didn’t leak when we tucked it into our bag and took it out with us. In addition, because it’s insulated, no condensation forms on the outside of the Funtainer, which means that the bottle won’t wet the other stuff in the bag it’s placed in or leave rings on furniture.

Thermos Funtainer cap flipping
The Thermos Funtainer’s cap makes this bottle the easiest for little kids to open and close on their own, is effective at preventing leaks, and helps keep grubby fingers from touching the straw.
Video: Rozette Rago

The cap also helps keep the Thermos’s straw cleaner than the spouts of other strawed bottles we tested. During our trip to the park, the cap stayed closed through eight drops onto the sand. Sand also did not collect in and around the Thermos’s straw, unlike with the CamelBak and the Contigo, which do not have a cap that shields the spout. Even when the bottle falls to the ground with the cap open, its straw is less likely than the straws of other bottles we tested to come in contact with the ground. That’s because the Thermos’s straw sits closer to the center of the bottle whereas the spouts of the CamelBak and Contigo are at the edge.

Thermos claims its vacuum insulation technology keeps liquids cool for up to 12 hours, so we wanted to see if that was true. We filled the bottle with 1 cup of water, added three ice cubes, and let it sit at room temperature. Within an hour, the ice had melted, but the water was cool and refreshing at 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It stayed about 50 degrees for five hours before the temperature began to creep up. After 12 hours, the water was 60 degrees, still cool and refreshing, though certainly warmer than before.

Many online reviewers note that the Funtainer’s straw can endure many months of abuse from little chewers, and they like that the straw is easy to replace when it does finally succumb (though be sure to check the bottle model number to make sure the replacement parts are compatible). Thermos offers a guarantee against manufacturing defects on the stainless steel body of the Funtainer, but coverage time varies with model number, anywhere from 90 days to lifetime.

Steel pick: Flaws but not dealbreakers

If you don’t close the Funtainer’s cap all the way, and the bottle is tipped over or upside down, the water flows freely out of the straw, as many online reviewers note.

Within the first week of being liberally tossed around, the bottom of the Thermos Funtainer was scuffed; none of the other bottles showed any obvious wear and tear during the same time period. Online users and a Wirecutter writer complain that the designs, printed on metal, are easily scratched, but we don’t consider that a dealbreaker, since the bottle is still functional.

During our trip to the park, sand got caught in the button, so it could not be depressed. It required an adult to remove the sand before the bottle could be opened again.

Some users complain about mold developing in the straw or other parts, but this seems to only be an issue if you keep liquids in the Funtainer for more than the recommended 24-hour maximum, don’t clean the straw in a timely fashion, or don’t disassemble the two-piece straw when cleaning.

A Wirecutter editor who tested several water bottles for this guide and has long used the Thermos with his three kids points out that the handle on the top is “a real low point on that one’s design—weakly attached, tends to come off, tends to break entirely after several drops.” But he still prefers the Thermos to the other models we looked at because of how easy it is to keep clean.

One Wirecutter staff writer who buys the same Thermos every year for her son because of cosmetic wear observed that the bottle has been recently redesigned. Both old and new designs are currently available at retailers, so customers need to check their model number before purchasing replacement parts, as not all replacements parts are compatible. Thermos did not respond to a request for more information about its redesign. Also, the company’s guarantee does not cover “normal wear and color fading.”

Also great: Klean Kanteen Kids Classic Sport

Child drinking from Kleen Kanteen

For older children with more dexterous fingers, the Klean Kanteen Kids Classic Sport is another good option. With just two parts—the bottle itself and the cap—the Klean Kanteen is the easiest of all our bottles to take apart and clean. Its simple stainless steel design is also lighter than the Thermos Funtainer. The 27-ounce Klean Kanteen Classic Stainless Steel was also our top pick in our 2018 water bottle guide; we found it “easy to fill, easy to drink from … leakproof and almost as light as a plastic bottle.” Plus, it is durable, surviving trips to the park and being knocked around, without so much as a dent. Online reviewers report that their bottles have lasted for years. “I first bought these water bottles for my older children over four years ago,” says one verified customer on Amazon. “The bottles are still going strong, albeit some dents and scratches on the surface.”

Compared with the Thermos Funtainer, however, the Klean Kanteen is less leakproof. We tested the Klean Kanteen with the sport top, which Klean Kanteen says is not guaranteed to be leakproof; leave it on its side for too long, and water may dribble out. (You can also purchase a sippy cap or a traditional loop cap with handle). In our tests, when properly closed and capped, the sports cap secured the bottle from leaks. The attached cap also stayed on the spout after more than 10 drops into the sand—more than any of the other bottles we tested.

Kleen Kanteen Kid Classic Sport

Kleen Kanteen Kid Classic Sport

The Klean Kanteen is the easiest to clean of the bottles we tested and can be used with a sippy top, sports cap, or screw-on top.

For older children with more dexterous fingers, the Klean Kanteen Kids Classic Sport is another good option. With just two parts—the bottle itself and the cap—the Klean Kanteen is the easiest of all our bottles to take apart and clean. Its simple stainless steel design is also lighter than the Thermos Funtainer. The 27-ounce Klean Kanteen Classic Stainless Steel was also our top pick in our 2018 water bottle guide; we found it “easy to fill, easy to drink from … leakproof and almost as light as a plastic bottle.” Plus, it is durable, surviving trips to the park and being knocked around, without so much as a dent. Online reviewers report that their bottles have lasted for years. “I first bought these water bottles for my older children over four years ago,” says one verified customer on Amazon. “The bottles are still going strong, albeit some dents and scratches on the surface.”

Compared with the Thermos Funtainer, however, the Klean Kanteen is less leakproof. We tested the Klean Kanteen with the sport top, which Klean Kanteen says is not guaranteed to be leakproof; leave it on its side for too long, and water may dribble out. (You can also purchase a sippy cap or a traditional loop cap with handle). In our tests, when properly closed and capped, the sports cap secured the bottle from leaks. The attached cap also stayed on the spout after more than 10 drops into the sand—more than any of the other bottles we tested.

Klean Kanteen sport top
The Klean Kanteen’s sport top has a tethered cap that stayed put through our drop test better than the caps and spouts of other bottles we tested. The sport top itself can be tricky for toddlers to operate by themselves.
Photo: Rozette Rago

But when we handed the Klean Kanteen to our 2-year-old and 3-year-old testers, they could not close the cap properly on their own, leaving the Klean Kanteen too vulnerable to leaks. Over time, it also becomes more difficult to depress the Klean Kanteen’s sport cap completely closed. Even parents of older children—not to mention adult users—report that their Klean Kanteens leak for this reason. Some online reviewers also note that the tiny vent hole near the spout is prone to leaks. We did not test the sippy top option because of online complaints from users that the loop squishes kids’ noses when they drink from it. Also, the small cap that goes with the sippy cap is easy to lose, and without it, the bottle leaks. Should you run into problems, Klean Kanteen’s bottles come with a lifetime warranty, which covers manufacturing defects.

Our plastic pick: CamelBak Eddy

CamelBak Eddy Kids 12 Ounce
Photo: Rozette Rago

If you prefer a lightweight plastic water bottle, the CamelBak Eddy is our favorite option. It’s easier to take apart for cleaning than our steel pick, the Thermos Funtainer, and also easier than the plastic Contigo bottle. We could remove the bite valve and pop it back in place in a matter of seconds; it has only four parts (bite valve, straw, top, and bottle) for parents to deal with. The CamelBak can also be placed in the top dishwasher rack with no caveats, unlike the Thermos Funtainer. Last year, CamelBak introduced an insulated stainless steel version; the tops are conveniently interchangeable between the plastic and steel bottles. We prefer the Thermos to the stainless steel CamelBak, however, because of the Thermos’s cap and better placement of the straw.

The CamelBak Eddy’s bite valve helps prevent unnecessary leaks and spills. To open it, you bite down partway; it remains closed otherwise, so when the bottle is tipped over or even held upside down while open, no water comes out. (A motivated kid could press it open with their fingers to shake water out, but it’s not easy to do.) In our leak test, our paper towel was perfectly dry the next day after we placed the CamelBak on its side overnight. Parents reported that the bite valve, made with medical-grade silicone, holds up to chewers, and several suggested that it even encourages kids to drink more water: “Maybe because we need to actually bite the valve when drinking and that feeling encourages us to drink more.”

The CamelBak Eddy is also simple for young children to use. The sturdy handle makes it easy to grasp the bottle with one hand when drinking. With a perfectly sized plastic hinge, our testers could easily flip the wide, soft spout open to take a sip. Unlike with the Thermos Funtainer, however, not all our 2- and 3-year-old testers could close the CamelBak Eddy on their first try, but all managed it on their second or third attempt, and parents said that their young children can easily use the bottle on their own. “Both my 2 year old and 5 year old can flip the sip part up and push it back down causing ZERO spills!” says one online customer. Parents also report that their toddlers, some younger than 2, have no issues figuring out how to use the bite valve.

In our initial leak test, the CamelBak Eddy failed. We found that water dribbled out the back side of the spout when we held it upside down. We reached out to CamelBak, and because its bottles are backed by a lifetime guarantee and this appeared to be a manufacturing defect, we sent ours back and received a new one. Both the new plastic one and the stainless steel one did not leak in our leak test.

Parents praise the CamelBak’s durability, saying that the bottle holds up to falls and other general abuse from kids. And like the Thermos Funtainer, it comes in a bunch of fun colors and designs.

The stainless steel bottle claims to keep liquids cool for up to 24 hours. In our temperature test, we found that ice melted within the first hour, and that the temperature began to rise after three hours. After 24 hours, the water temperature rose from 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 62 degrees Fahrenheit, still cool enough for kids who prefer drinking cold water.

CamelBak Eddy Kids 12 Ounce

CamelBak Eddy Kids 12 Ounce

The CamelBak Eddy is a straw bottle that’s a breeze to take apart for cleaning and is basic for young kids to use, but can leak.

Plastic pick: Flaws but not dealbreakers

water bottle cap
Video: Rozette Rago

Parents have mixed feelings about the CamelBak Eddy’s bite valve. Some users complain that they found mold inside the valve if they did not wash it daily. We spoke to several parents who fill their kids’ CamelBak Eddy with smoothies. Asked if they had trouble cleaning it, they said no. A Wirecutter editor and multiple online reviewers also report that their child yanks or pushes down on the straw, moving it out of place, and causing the bottle to leak. To close the bottle, the spout must be flipped down, and though there’s a plastic lever, most kids tend to use their (likely dirty) fingers to push the spout down. (The Thermos Funtainer is the only bottle we tested whose closure mechanism keeps fingers away from the spout or straw.) Kids also love to chew on the soft, silicone spout, which can ultimately damage the sealing of the bite valve and also cause it to leak. Most parents said they purchased replacement parts after about a year.

Care and maintenance

In the research we did for our guide to adult water bottles, we found that the best cleaning set for bottles is the dishwasher-safe OXO Good Grips Water Bottle Cleaning Set, which comes with a large bottle brush, a skinny straw brush, and a looped detail-cleaning brush.

Thermos recommends hand-washing the Funtainer, though it says the bottle can be washed on the top rack of the dishwasher. We recommend using a skinny brush to wash the inside of the straw.

CamelBak cautions customers not to force a bottle brush through the bite valve, as it can tear. For a deep cleaning of the bite valve, straw, and cap, CamelBak recommends filling a jar with water and a drop of mild soap or a tablespoon of bleach. Drop the parts into the jar and shake it for 30 seconds and let it sit for about 15 minutes; air-dry.

The Klean Kanteen’s sport cap is dishwasher safe; for a thorough cleaning, the company recommends washing the bottle with warm, soapy water and a bottle brush. If you have a bottle that’s painted with color—as with many of the Klean Kanteen kids bottles—Klean Kanteen does not recommend sending it through the dishwasher.

If you put liquids other than water in these bottles, you’ll likely end up with some buildup. The best way to clean it out is to use a bottle brush and some baking soda or vinegar.

The competition

We dismissed the Contigo Autospout Straw Gizmo because the straw is difficult to push down and close, and frequently popped right back up, even for our 6-year-old testers. The Contigo is also not designed to be taken apart completely to clean thoroughly. Though it can be placed in the top rack of the dishwasher, the Autospout’s top has too many tiny crevices that are difficult to reach, even with a straw brush, making it possible for mold to form. Indeed, the primary complaint in online reviews about the Contigo Autospout is mold.

We did not test the Contigo Autospout Straw Striker because numerous online reviews complain of mold, quality-control problems, and design issues that make the bottle leak and the straw pop out of place.

The Hydro Flask 12 oz. Kids is highly rated by BabyGearLab, but it costs $30, which is above our price threshold, and online reviewers complain that it leaksand doesn’t keep drinks cold.

We dismissed the Lifefactory 12 oz. Glass Water Bottle because of its weight (13.4 oz., compared with 7.8 oz. for the Thermos and 5.6 oz. for the Klean Kanteen) and because of complaints that it can crack or shatter when dropped. Online reviewers also complain that the straw stops working over time.

SIGG bottles in our adult water bottle guide dented easily and generally did not perform well, so we did not consider any SIGG kids water bottles.

Sources

1. Jane Jackson, The Best Water Bottles for Hiking and Outdoors, OutdoorGearLab, May 8, 2018

2. Juliet Spurrier, MD, and Lindsay Selig, The Best Kids Water Bottle, BabyGearLab, June 12, 2018

3. Bryan Vu, The Best Water Bottles, Your Best Digs, February 5, 2018

4. No consumer health risk from bisphenol A exposure, European Food Safety Authority, January 21, 2015

5. How Much Water Should My Child Drink, CHOC Children’s with UC Irvine

Read the original article on The Best Kids Water Bottles.