Open Cup Drinking with Babies and Toddlers: Why and How ~ By Amy, Shine Feeding Therapist

I have been a speech therapist for almost 18 years and a feeding therapist for almost 5 years. The two do not go hand in hand. We all learn a little about feeding/swallowing while in college, but I certainly did not learn all I know now about feeding while still in school. It would have been helpful to be a feeding therapist when my children were all little and beginning to eat! I’ve learned so much about feeding development after they were all eating table foods and drinking from cups and straws. One of the most important things I learned is that drinking from sippy cups is not a developmental milestone.

WHAT?!? Yes, sippy cups were designed for parents…to avoid spills and messes…not for children and helping them learn to drink from something other than breast or bottle. A spouted sippy cup continues to promote forward-backward tongue movements and suckling patterns similar to that of breast or bottle drinking. We want kiddos to learn to do so much more with their tongues to be able to safely eat advancing textures of foods. 

And it’s something I now talk to almost every one of the families I work with about. Here are some of my first recommendations and advice I typically offer to families…

Try small medicine cups or small 2 oz open or “shot” glasses (yes, those tiny red solo cups are good for other things, too!!)–

They are the perfect size for small hands as kiddos like to be independent!

Offer thicker liquids to help slow the liquid down and it doesn’t end up all down the front of your kiddo’s shirt. Some of my favorites to first try include drinkable yogurt, applesauce, or baby food purees. You can add a little water, milk, or juice if the puree seems to be “stuck” at the bottom of the cup. We want it to flow easily, but not so quickly like water alone would. 

Practice with the small cups along with your kiddo! They like to do what they see others do, so grab a little cup and model!

If you are going to buy a “sippy cup”, look for one that mimics drinking from a regular open cup, such as a 360 cup. There are several different brands, but all have rims and not spouts. And take the spill proof valve out. Yes, the liquid may spill out, but with the valve in place it requires sucking and not mature drinking skills. PRO tIp: You can offer water in these cups so clean up would be easier. 


An 8-week program for children age 3-6 with sensory processing differences

Children with sensory processing differences have difficulty with regulation, which sometimes makes it difficult for them to interact with the world around them. Our Sensory Explorers group targets regulation in order to build engagement! This group is led by pediatric occupational therapists Mackenzie Baldock (2:30 group) OR Meghan Day (8:30 group) and developmental therapist/PLAY Project Consultant Brenna Thompson, all of whom specialize in using developmentally appropriate strategies to support children so they can learn new skills. Group meets once/week for 60 minutes.

Wondering if this class is appropriate for your child? Some characteristics of kids who benefit: easily frustrated with play, repetitive play, difficulty sitting/keeping still to engage in play, refuses to allow others to engage in play, unable to be messy, overly busy, quickly overwhelmed in a busy environment, picky eater, difficulty tolerating grooming/dressing/diapering routines, struggles with transitions/following a group plan/routine. 

Goals of the group include:

  • Child participating in a variety of sensory play activities
  • Engaging socially with others in the group
  • Providing a non threatening environment where children can experience new sensations with the support of a pediatric Occupational Therapist and PLAY Project consultant
  • Providing personalized resources to caregivers, so they better understand the sensory system and learn strategies to assist their child with regulation outside of group
  • Opportunity to meet with other local families

GROUP MEETS for 8 weeks:  Caregivers must stay on the premises to support their child and learn helpful strategies. Children will separate from caregivers for the session; caregivers can socialize in the lobby (we will also provide a few toys for siblings to play). Caregiver education is a key component of this program. 


OPTIONAL Summary Report available at close of session. This 2 page report will summarize your child’s participation in the class and provide helpful sensory strategies to increase their participation in activities. This report could be given to teachers in classrooms & daycares or utilized to help educate other caregivers about ways to help your child participate. This option includes a 30 minute Zoom meeting with Brenna and MacKenzie/Brenna and Meghan to review the report and discuss your child’s progress in Sensory Explorers. COST: $100 due at sign up