It makes sense to use sippy cups and baby bottles when your child is very young. The nipple of the baby bottle is a natural transition from or substitute for the breast. It fits the infant’s mouth and sucking patterns.
As the child grows and gains more independence, he starts to hold the bottle on his own. A sippy cup is the next logical step to reduce spills as he toddler around. But children are quite capable of using an open cup, even as a toddler.
Teach your child how to drink out of an open cup
Start teaching your child to drink out of an open cup by merely holding it for her as she takes a sip. Guide it to her mouth and take it away when appropriate. She is going to grab ahold of it inevitably, so firmly use your hands to help her. She will eventually learn how to control it because it will often spill. You can facilitate this by telling and showing her when to stop.
The spill is the natural control of error
This method works best when you are already holding your toddler. As she becomes more proficient, she can start to practice on her own while sitting in a high chair or at a table.
When your child is independently practicing how to drink out of a cup, start with a cup that has handles on the sides. This will better fit her grip. Later move to a cup with no handles that fit easily into her hands. Put in only a couple of liquid sips for initial practice, gradually adding more as she becomes more adept at moving the cup to her mouth without spilling.
Even a child as young as nine months can be capable of doing this.
Involve your child in any cleanup
Children are going to spill as they learn how to use an open cup. Even a toddler is capable of helping to clean up a spill.
Keep extra towels and sponges on hand as your child goes through the learning process. If and when he spills, demonstrate how to wipe up his mess.
The more you allow him to practice cleaning up after himself, the more independent and helpful he can become.
Sippy cups have their place
Sippy cups and cups with lids do have their place in your child’s life. Even adults use lids on cups when they are on the go in the car. Your child should do likewise. They are also a good idea when outside to avoid having dirt and bugs land inside.
If you are concerned about your child spilling juice when in the living room, set up rules for where certain liquids may be consumed.
For example, set up a rule that it is okay to drink water in the living room, but juice and milk must be consumed in the kitchen or at a table. It will take consistency and diligence on your part, but young children can follow the rules. Make it a house rule, and enforce it amongst older children and even adults.
All life skills take practice to master. The sooner your child stops using sippy cups and baby bottles, the sooner she will gain more independence.