Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Powerful Straw

If, after reading this post, you refrain from throwing away all the Sippy cups in your home, then I have failed to make my point.  Instead of the Sippy cup, I ask that you give the straw pictured in this post a try.  What I especially like about these straws is that the little spoon end is a great way to start introducing the straws to toddlers and it can come in handy with older children when those thick shakes are just too thick to drink!  For years, I have been preaching about the dynamic ability of the straw and giving seasonal straws as prizes in my speech practice.  You would be amazed how changing just one thing in your child's life can impact his or her speech and language development.  There is one catch though, if you are going to use straw drinking with your child, you must recycle, toss, or burn those Sippy cups!!  These vial cups will only prohibit your child from making oral motor progress, especially those cups with the hard plastic top or the take and toss version.  You should literally TAKE and TOSS those cups!   Here's why.....

Straw drinking promotes tongue retraction into the mouth while drinking.  In order to suction liquids or shakes from the cup, you must pull your tongue into your mouth, which, by the way, is the area where your tongue needs to touch in order to produce many speech sounds including (t, d, k, g.)  You can also mix things up a little by varying the intensity of the straw.  Shorter straws and thin liquids are a great starting point for young children just getting used to this magical tool, while longer or twisty, silly straws in thicker liquids require more work.  The latter version challenges older children to improve oral motor awareness.  In other words, drinking cold, thick beverages with the straw pictured above may help your child  feel where their lips and tongue are in the mouth, thus improving awareness for sound placements.  I have seen tremendous success with children improving their tongue posture in response to speech therapy in conjunction with making simple changes like using a straw instead of a Sippy cup.

A Sippy cup is a bottle in cup form, meaning it requires the use of an immature, effortless, suckle pattern.  This is fine for the young child, but by one year old, your child should be graduating to open cup and straw drinking.  A suckle pattern means that your child needs to stick his or her tongue out of the mouth to drink.  There is little to no tongue retraction involved in this movement.  Most of the time, the liquid will drip out of a Sippy if you turn it upside down.  Prolonged use of a bottle or Sippy cup may promote poor tongue posture.  As a result, you will notice your child's tongue rest outside of the mouth and you may observe difficulty with production of sounds made inside the mouth along the palate (t, d, k, g.). This can be especially true for any child with low tone and/or reduced awareness around the mouth.  If this sounds like your child, then talk with a Speech Therapist/ Oral Motor Specialist about straw drinking, who can provide step by step instruction to teach your child to maintain suction through a straw and recommend graduated straw programs to improve oral motor development.  Drinking through a straw not only positively affects speech and articulation, but also feeding and swallowing. 

Nanette Cote, Pediatric Speech-Language Therapist


  1. Hallelujiah! You are preaching to the choir with this blog and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it! I feel so passionately about getting rid of the bottles and sippy cups ASAP and moving to a straw cup for toddlers! You did a great job explaining why straws are so much more advantageous than sippy cups! Thank you for this blog! I hope many many parents read this one!

  2. Amanda HenningerJune 25, 2014 at 8:35 AM

    I use this same straw with my cleft/lip and palate kids to target resonance. One end to the ear and the other end in the nose.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this information with the public.I will be discontinuing the use of sippy cups immediately. Is there any reason why some straws are priced higher than others, especially the ones specified as talk tool?

  4. Where can i buy a straw like the one pictured?

    1. I purchased these straws in bulk to attach to my business cards. You may want to look on Amazon or do a search for smoothie straws.