Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Colorful Double-Wall "Designer" 9.5 oz. Sippy Cups (Dollar Tree)

Can't find the lid, but you get the idea. (Pic taken right before chucking it in the trash.)
Like most families with children, we're finding you can never really have enough sippy cups—if nothing else, the more you have just means the longer you can go without having to do dishes, and that's an okay issue to have in my book! Plus, a majority of the ones we got from friends and family were mostly the “semi-disposable” ones that aren't meant to be kept around forever. So while perusing the baby section at Dollar Tree and stumbling on these, I figured I'd grab one just to test out.

What initially drew me into them were the designs: There's one with a pirate theme (for all the boys), another one with a princess theme (for all the girls), and one with a friendly monster telling no one in particular that “Friends are great!” (for either or). Thanks, Cup Monster! The artwork is clear and cutesy, while the cups themselves felt surprisingly thick and sturdy. I wanted to grab a few, but didn't want to be saddled with a bunch of them in case they sucked, so I just fired a single pirate cup into my basket.

These cups, like many geared toward younger children, are “spill-proof”, via a plastic piece that fits on the underside of the lid. This prevents the liquid from coming out, unless there's a distinct sucking motion on the spout, a clever piece of engineering that has probably been prevalent for dozens of years but which I never paid attention to until having a kid of my own. This plastic piece is also easily removable, allowing for quick and easy cleanup; I always wash the plastic part by hand, while throwing the rest in the dishwasher (which probably isn't recommended...oh well), and have never had an issue with any of it.

Alternate angle with punched-up colors.
Now for the big question: How well does it perform? And that's where these cups (sometimes) lose much of their luster: The plastic piece—by far the most integral part of the whole cup—is prone to coming off at random times, no matter how hard you shove it into place. It's especially noticeable after we shook it up to mix the cup's contents, such as after adding a dash of chocolate syrup to baby's milk for a little treat. But even once we figured that out—and started mixing it before we put on the plastic piece—there's still one very concerning variable: kids are crazy. They like to flail things around and drop anything they can get their hands on...cups included. Which meant that, even if we took proper care with it, our child could still wedge it loose with an act as simple as accidentally dropping it, which isn't really a great way to instill confidence in a product. Put it this way: if your product is meant to prevent spills, and is prone to causing them, it's not very good.

We've since limited the use of these to nighttime, or during the day right before he takes his nap, when he's very tired and less apt to perform random bouts of physical insanity. This has certainly cut down on the number of problems we've had, but obviously, it's not a foolproof plan. Even more annoying is just how random the whole plastic piece issue seems to be: sometimes, he'll drop the cup and it will be perfectly fine, while other times it seems the slightest movement dislodges it, causing the drink to pour out at an alarming rate, thus leading to excessive spills. And let's not even mention how incessantly annoying it is to dig the plastic piece out from the bottom of the cup; it fits so perfectly across the bottom, that when that happens it's much easier to pour the contents out into another cup until the plastic piece falls out. Or, to be proactive, you just put the contents into a different cup to begin with to save yourself from the potential hassle.

I'm really torn though because I still like these cups a lot: even after several trips through the dishwasher (which again, I learned is not recommended), the artwork still looks great—it hasn't faded in the slightest like I would expect an inexpensive cup to do, nor has any moisture condensed between the walls—and structurally, the cup is still in great condition, with no chips or scuffs even after repeated droppings on hardwood floor. Unfortunately, all because of that dumb little piece, we've had to severely cut back on using them only a couple of times per week when we're almost certain he's too tired to mess with it, and won't be buying any more going forward.

I suppose it's technically possible that it was only one cup causing these problems, and we were just an unfortunate recipient of quality control issues (we did buy three, but all with the same design, so it would have been hard to differentiate between them). Either way, even if only one was causing the issue, odds are good that there are many more out there that will do the same. And, in my opinion, even the quality of inexpensive products should not come down to a randomized lottery.

If you bought them and had a better experience, I would be glad to hear any counterpoints you may have in the comments!

Overall: 4.5/10. This score is a shame because structurally, these cups are surprisingly sturdy and fantastic, even after repeated passes through the dishwasher (which, for the record, I don't think is recommended, something I learned far too late). Unfortunately, the plastic piece that fits under the lid—you know, the entire thing that makes a cup spill-proof—is prone to falling off with the slightest amount of movement, which then leads to frustrating mess cleanups, and an upset child. That means shaking it is certainly a no-no, as is dropping it—once again, two things that children regularly do. We still use them occasionally, mainly at bedtime when he's more calm, and that has greatly reduced the number of issues we've had with them. But what good is a baby product that is made to prevent spills, if there's also a decent chance it will cause one?

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