Babycup founder Sara Keel give us her top tips for encouraging little ones to use an open cup when weaning. Like us, Babycup are committed to helping parents establish good oral hygiene habits from the start and an open cup is the healthiest way to drink because it encourages sipping and is better for teeth. Indeed, this is the advice is given by dentists, orthodontists and NHS guidelines.
But advice is one thing, making it doable is another. The aim of Babycup First Cups is most definitely to make sipping doable and to make sure little ones have cups that really are ‘sippy cups’ not ‘sucky cups’.
Here are some top tips for successful sips:
When the cup fits
Choose a cup with the user in mind. It may sound like the most obvious thing in the world, but little children are....little! So it’s strangely surprising that many cups marketed as being for babies and young children are actually similar in size to an adult’s cup. That’s a bit like you or me trying to learn to drink from a bucket! An oversized cup can be big and cumbersome, and heavy when filled with liquid, not to mention wider than a little mouth and bigger than little hands. Choose a mini open cup like our Babycup First Cups to make it as easy as possible for little hands to hold, also so liquid can more easily funnel into the mouth and less down the cheeks. Look aswell for a slim drinking-edge so as not to be bulky on baby lips.
Pretty much everything that a weaning baby or toddler might use is miniature, the highchair, their cutlery, it makes sense. Little cups for little people make sense too.
Just a little drop
Start with just a tiny amount of liquid. 10ml or less is fine. Even practising empty is great.
The hand hold and the hand hover
To start with, you can hold the cup or, if your little one reaches for the cup, try holding it with them and guiding it to their mouth. They learn huge amounts through mimic so and as they’ve most likely seen parents, carers, siblings or other children use cups, you might find they already have a good idea of what to do and may instinctively put the cup to their mouth themselves. It’s such a joy to see these skills developing – not just the sipping but the fine motor skills too. These mini people are simply amazing when given the opportunity to try things out. To help encourage them to sip, hold the cup so it lightly rests on their bottom lip, tip the cup ever so slightly and let them get used to how it feels. As they progress, let them try themselves and just hover your hand nearby ready to help if need be.
Praise and encourage
We all love a bit of positive feedback and these weaning wonders are no different. Be at their level, make eye contact, use their name, and tell them how proud you are of their effort. Praise their attempts, acknowledge the challenges. If they don’t fancy it that day, or are practising their throwing skills, calmly move the cup away and retry again later, remembering the tip of just trying a tiny bit of drink to start with.
Sit and sip
There is so much to be said for walking the walk. These little ones are watching and learning all the time, so take the opportunity to grab a drink, take a seat and sip together. Model the behaviour you want to teach. Parents, siblings, carers can all make an impact.
Extra tips and tricks!
- Practise at bath-time (fresh drinks not bath water!) - there’s no need to worry about spills! It’s a perfect time for some practise.
- At first mealtime tries, wait until after they’ve eaten and are less distracted.
- When you start to hold and tip the cup to their bottom lip, rest it there for a second or two to encourage lip closure around the rim of the cup.
- Spills are part of the learning process (small cups and small amounts of liquid = only small spills!).
- If your little one doesn’t want to hold the cup at first, don’t worry, just hold it for them. Learning a new skill might take practise, but it’s so worthwhile.
- Ensure a good seating position for learning this new skill.
- It’s all about the feel good factor. Encouragement is wonderful and essential (and perseverance is key for both of you!)
- Tiny humans are born to learn. Their mimicry is magical
Choosing a mini open weaning cup not only has the benefits of starting healthy sipping from weaning but also promotes orthodontic development and fine motor skills. Dr Jemma Hook, aka The Mummy Dentist, says, “Learning a ‘sipping’ action is good for promoting oral-facial muscle and jaw development as babies practice new skills including ‘babbling’ and early speech patterns at a young age. It also prevents liquids from pooling around the upper front teeth helping to reduce the risk of decay.” This is where Brush Baby dental wipes, teethers and toothpastes come in handy to give little ones a healthy start to their smile.
Sip sip hooray!