Foogo by Thermos Leak-Proof Sippy Cup (7 oz., $17) Foogo's vacuum-insulated, stainless-steel body keeps liquids cold up to six hours, a quality that impressed exactly no one on the panel, especially since all that insulation makes for a very heavy cup. "I guess the six hours would come in handy if I were to take my child on a desert caravan," one parent noted dryly. Foogo also received low marks for its top piece, which consists of three parts: a threaded cap, a semisoft spout, and a hard plastic valve. While the valve snaps right into place, it's tough to pull out of the cap for cleaning purposes. And, as several parents mentioned (some of whom had used the Foogo before), unless you get the cap perfectly aligned—something that's not easy to do—the Foogo leaks without fail. One reviewer summed up the general sentiment: "Thermos should stick to making thermoses."
Ease of care: 5
Ease of use: 10
SIGG Baby Water Bottle (10 oz., $12.59) The SIGG was the surprise flop of this experiment. Maybe it's the overexposure: Just as a regular SIGG water bottle is a must-have for any eco-chic celebrity, the company's kid bottle has become the sippy of choice for the likes of Cindy Crawford and Madonna. "I'm not Madonna, and I shop at Publix," one panelist snapped while inspecting the Swiss-made SIGG, which is made of lightweight aluminum and shaped like one of those old milk jugs. The sports-bottle cap is just one big piece (easy to clean and assemble!), but according to most panelists, it's way too hard for a child to open and close while in use. (To open the valve, you have to quarter-turn an inner cap counterclockwise—try explaining that to a 2-year-old.) This was a deal-breaker for some, especially since, when open, the SIGG is like an open vein. One other nitpick with the SIGG's design: The cap's cover, which looks like a really cool hard hat, snaps off too easily.
Ease of care: 10
Ease of use: 4
Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Training Cup (10 oz., $6.99) Since most of the panelists had used Dr. Brown's baby bottles, they were curious to see how the company's sippy cup fared. At first glance, no one cared for the cup's bare-bones look: a simple blue and white hard plastic cap covering a clear, wide-mouth cup. "It looks institutional," one parent said, "like a urine sample cup." But after testing, many panelists were impressed. The long, straight handles made for a sure grip, and the valve was easy to get on and off the cap for cleaning. Best of all, except for a couple of small drops, it was leak-free. Impressed by the Dr. Brown's cup, one panelist even revised his first impression: What had been an "institutional" look now seemed "simple" and "clean."
Ease of care: 11
Ease of use: 12
The Safe Sippy (11 oz., $12.90) The Safe Sippy is a wavy, stainless-steel bottle covered with a colorful rubber sleeve. Like the Foogo, the Safe Sippy keeps drinks cold for a long time. Unlike the Foogo, the Safe Sippy barely leaks. Its defining quality is the short polypropylene straw jutting at an angle from the cap. Parents who had used the Safe Sippy reported that their teething kids loved to chew on the straw, and panelists who'd previously been unaware of the cup's existence took to its quirky shape. One parent said the Safe Sippy looks like a "funky rocketship," while another was incongruously reminded of a Willy Ronis photograph. The valve is easy to pull out and back in, ensuring proper assembly each time. But one drawback for many on the panel (other than the steep price) is the inability to see how much liquid remains in the stainless-steel bottle.
Ease of care: 12
Ease of use: 9
Nalgene Grip-n-Gulp Bottle (12 oz., $8.17) The largest cup of the bunch, the Grip-n-Gulp has the same indie/crunchy vibe as Nalgene's ubiquitous wide-mouth adult bottles. One panelist described the look as "outdoorsy chic": tall and solid, in three-tone eco-green, with a stiff, vertical spout. While the swooping curves of other bottles elicited mixed reviews, all the panelists liked the relatively straightforward, cylindrical shape of the Grip-n-Gulp. (One parent noted that her "bumpie"—labeled bands that go around the bottle—fit snugly on the Nalgene.) Remarkably, even parents who prefer cups with handles found the handle-less Grip-n-Gulp appealing: It fits into the side pocket of a backpack and is light enough for a very young child to lift. The Nalgene's translucence comforted those panelists who liked to be able to see how much liquid was left in the bottle. And, finally, in the performance tests, the cup excelled. The cap's rubber valve goes in and comes out with ease, and the Grip-n-Gulp, which released only an occasional post-sip drop, is as leakfproof as I imagine a sippy cup can be. If only Nalgene made diapers.
Ease of care: 12
Ease of use: 12