5 Tips for Transitioning Your Child to a Straw Cup
Children progress through various oral motor skills, during their first few years of life. A baby begins to develop the oral motor skills necessary to learn how to drink from a straw at nine months. In the next three to four months, he or she develops a coordinated sucking and swallowing pattern to drink from a straw without difficulty.
Much like any other milestone, there is a typical age range of when a child can master this skill (9 to 15 months), but they all will be able to do it with daily exposure to a straw. Here are some tips to help you teach your child how to drink from a straw.
- If you are introducing your baby to cup drinking, start with the straw. It will be a slower learning curve than a sippy cup, but developmentally a better choice. When a child drinks from a sippy cup they are using the same suck pattern they use for bottle drinking. If your toddler uses only a sippy cup, ditch all the sippy cups and fully transition them to a straw cup. The first few days may be horrible but your child will soon forget about their beloved sippy.
- Use a juice box to help your child understand the concept of withdrawing liquid from a straw. Encourage your child to put his or her lips around the straw while you squeeze up the juice. This will teach them that the straw is for drinking. Another less messy way is to use a washed out honey bear container and disposable straw.
- Try the dip and tip method. Dip a straw into your child’s beverage of choice, put your finger tip on the end of the straw and lift out of the cup. With your finger still on the end, put the end of the straw into your child’s mouth (onto the tongue tip), and tell him/her to “take a sip”. Then release the straw so all the liquid flows into your child’s mouth.
- Once your child feels comfortable with the liquid flowing into their mouth, teach them to close their lips around the straw by modeling and/or gently pinching their lips together. If your child has a negative reaction to you touching their lips do it to yourself first. It also is helpful to get down to your child's level and show them how to do use a straw, while making crazy sucking sounds and facial expressions. Kids love to imitate facial expressions, so play up drinking with a straw.
- If your child is having a hard time expressing with spout straws remove the valve or use a regular straw. Cut the regular straw in half, so they need less strength to express the liquid up into their mouth.
Much like any other developmental skill a lot of practice and exposure is the key to your child mastering this new feeding skill. More importantly, if you find your child becoming upset put the straws away and try again in a few weeks.
How did you transition your child from bottle to straw cup? Do you have additional tips or tricks that you can add?