I love balance bikes. What a clever idea! I wish they had been the norm when I was learning to ride. It’s a really simple premise and a very smart idea.
Have you seen them? More than that, have you seen a child, who’s learnt to use a balance-bike, (basically a bike without pedals), then learn to ride a pedal-bike?
Weeeeeeee! Look mum no stabilisers! Weeeeee….. I mean REALLY no stabilisers!!
If you’ve had the good fortune to see a child use a balance-bike, chances are you’ve witnessed the poise, speed and confidence at manoeuvring that a wee young thing can accomplish with this most basic of riding concepts. Even better, they probably didn’t need stabilisers when they moved on up to a pedal-bike.
And therein lies the beauty.
The skills learnt with the small balance bike transfer wonderfully to a big bicycle. Instead of having to brave it and ditch the stabilisers, your child already has confidence and balance and can take that fabulous next step without the common trauma of the ‘crutch removal’ – or the dreaded “Have you let go????” followed swiftly by the realisation that there is no longer anything keeping them upright and culminating shortly after that in crash, bang, wallop and a confidence backtrack.
From a balance bike, there’s also no need to undo learnt behaviours or relearn something the child felt they had already mastered. This is the real deal. Learning the skill from the very beginning and just adding to it, evolving, growing up.
At a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood I had the pleasure of meeting an inspirational and knowledgeable lady who was there representing the Children's Food Campaign. We got chatting about all things health and child-related and when I was telling her about Babycup she understood immediately. Without me so much as mentioning my balance-bike adoration her response was, “That reminds me of the concept of balance bikes.” Eek! I nearly leapt from my chair to give her a great big hug. “Yes!!!” For that’s exactly the scenario I use to help explain the concept of mini open cup-drinking.
NHS weaning information now includes the advice that it’s good to start using an open cup from as early as possible to help sipping and because it’s healthier for teeth (as in healthier than sucking on a spout/no-spill valve).
Top dentists and orthodontists are also echoing this advice and drinking with a natural sipping action is being explained as not only the norm but also the best way to teach children to drink. They are not advising sippy cups, they are advising cups to sip from. Open cups, actual cups. But shrunken. Small cups that little ones can manage and can learn with. Just like the balance bike. And the experts are equally on board with the idea of simplicity. No lids, no spouts, no handles. Learn the skill, stabilisers not required.
As Babycup is designed to fit not just little hands, but also little mouths, babies from weaning age and upwards really are capable of learning the super skill of healthy sipping. And the great thing is, once they’ve learnt it, they’ve got it. Just like riding a bike.
And as with the balance bike, when it’s time to move up a level, they are comfortable doing so.
When my eldest daughter was ready to wean I hunted high and low for the perfect cup for her to drink from. Unfortunately I didn't find it and instead I would pull the valves out of no-spill beakers and remove the lids from sippy cups. This solved one part of the puzzle, (have you ever tried drinking from some of those children's cups? For many of them you need a suck to rival a vacuum cleaner...). So the sipping side of things was improved, but my baby girl was still drinking out of a cup the equivalent size of me drinking from a bucket.
When beautiful daughter number two came along I was still frustrated by the fact that most drinking cups for infants are relatively gigantic for little heads and mouths (and hands) and I also disliked the idea of my children constantly drinking from a spout or teat. I delved deeper into the subject and found an alarming body of growing concern amongst health professionals, backing up my fear that spouts and no-spill valves are not just without any health benefits, but are actually potentially damaging for a baby or child's developing teeth, jaws and palate (see Info page for more details).
So, whilst lovely baby number one had been weaned on puree but I'd questioned the drinking side of things, baby number two was able to move up a step weaning-wise.
Firstly, my second daughter was opened up to the wonderful world of baby-led weaning, (I have to admit to being rather scared at first but it was really and truly amazing and I thoroughly recommend it. If you have any qualms then read the extremely helpful and very calming baby-led weaning book by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett link to BLW site or BLW book for guidance and info - it's an easy read and well worth it), and secondly, drum roll please............., she started drinking from an open cup at the age of six months. The cup wasn't the ideal one, but I was getting closer and I really saw the benefits of open cup drinking.
Completing our girl band, beautiful daughter number three was born and, as the six months milestone approached, and armed with the knowledge and experience of weaning my two eldest girls, further research into open cups began and my quest to make the most suitable open drinking cup: a little cup for little people.
And that’s how Babycup was born.
A non-toxic, BPA-free and phthalates-free, range of open drinking cups for babies and toddlers. It offers an alternative for parents who don't want their children to be constantly sucking from a spout, teat or no-spill valve and has been given the thumbs up by a variety of health professionals including dentists and orthodontists. As well as the knowledge that I am not harming my little one's facial or jaw development through something so seemingly innocent as a choice of drinking cup, I have also seen amazing fine motor skills development. At 11 months my youngest's pencil grip rivalled that of many five year olds. Click here to watch my one minute Babycup film showing how fun it is to use a Babycup and the great fine motor skills that are developed: Babycup The Movie.
The cups come in four fabulous colours and are translucent so your child can see inside. These gorgeous mini drinking cups are Made in England. They are produced in a highly experienced manufacturing unit, so they really are the real deal - they're not just made from any old plastic or imported from a factory without credentials. These cups are made to food contact standards and are made to be good enough for even newborn or premature babies to use.
For legislation conformity and for my own peace of mind, the cups have been lab tested in the UK and are confirmed as passing all the necessary approvals.
You might ask, why not use any old small pot? A toy cup or an egg cup perhaps? Some of these might be great and that's superb. Just do take a look at the smoothness of the drinking edge to ensure it has been finished to a standard you are happy doesn't pose any danger to your little one's delicate lips, mouth or hands. And also keep in mind the importance of knowing what material your baby's drinking cup is made from. Non-toxic, BPA-free and phthalates-free means Babycup will not leech any nasty chemicals into your baby's drink. The lab testing really is a valuable reassurance.
Parents or carers might worry about how to tackle the task of teaching a child, (who is used to throwing a non-spill valved cup on to the floor without consequence), that a ‘big girl/big boy cup’ can spill and create a mess. With so many gadgets and gizmos on offer, it’s easy to see how we get used to them. There is an easy change to be made, in order to help reverse the trend for crooked smiles; poorly developed faces, jaws and teeth; dental decay; speech impediments and a host of other early childhood health problems. Fill cups less and, like the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests, switch to an open cup as soon as your child can manage it.
Begin slowly. 1oz or less, or just 20ml at a time. Milk or water. Be close at hand. Help. Guide. Be patient. Let your hand hover nearby if need be. Be ready to take the cup if spills concern you. Help your child find the table/surface so they start to feel how to place the cup back down and pick it up again.
"Look mum, no handles!"
You will be amazed and very proud when you see what your child can do given a little time and support.
Taking down barriers and helping reduce many childhood problems is often within our power as parents but it's so often our own fears that stop us doing this and stop our babies and children developing in the most natural and healthy way. It is up to us as parents to change that. And when it comes to dental health, we really can change things.