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Biking with kids? Tether that sippy cup, and bring some snacks

Posted by on July 3rd, 2008 at 1:57 pm

Marion Rice and daughter Gleneden

[This article was written by our Carfree Families columnist Marion Rice. For previous articles in this series, and for links to other articles and photos on family biking, check out the Carfree Families Page.]

My kids love it when I pick them up on the bike with a cold drink and yummy snack in hand.

The Sippy Cup Tether in action.
(Photos © J. Maus)

But it can be challenging for toddlers to hold a sippy cup and a snack while riding on the back of your bike.

What to do?

I have devised a simple Sippy Cup Tether and instead of making millions on the idea, I am giving all of you the open source plans to make your own (see below for instructions)!

For kids who are old enough to ride their own bike (or even on a tag-along or tandem), I don’t recommend that parents encourage them to have a snack on the go; kids need to be in control with no distractions. In that case, it’s better to have your snack before you ride or, find a nice place to stop and do it picnic-style.

Me and Eleni

Snacks keep kids happy.

But for little ones — like my 2 year old Gleneden — she’s content to have me hand her a wax paper bag (which are 100% biodegradable) with something yummy in it and have access to her sippy cup tethered to the bike seat.

Why tether it to the seat? A flying sippy cup can be a hazard to you and others. And why not? It’s easy to do and will give you that secure feeling knowing that your child can’t ditch their cup overboard (which we all know some toddlers take great delight in).

To go along with the drink, try these easy, yummy, transportable, earth and waste-friendly snacks…

Peanut Butter and Apple Sandwiches

  • Peel an apple (or not depending on your kids taste)
  • Cut it in rounds, I can usually get 4 sandwiches out of one apple
  • Put a bit (not too much because it spreads when hot) of peanut butter in the center of the apple slice and cover with another apple slice of the same size.
  • Place in a wax paper bag
  • Enjoy!

Highly Transportable Healthy Snacks Great in Wax Bags:

  • Rice Cracker Mix
  • A French Baguette (my kids routinely chew on hunks on the bike)
  • Baby Kosher Dills
  • Hard Boiled Egg
  • Smart Puffs
  • Pirate Booty
  • Raisins
  • Craisins
  • Tamari Almonds

How to Make a Sippy Cup Tether


  • Get about a yard of ¼ inch diameter shock cord at a mountain shop
  • Get two double feed cord locks
  • Get one small carabiner


    1. Put one end of the shock cord through one hole of the double feed cord lock.
    2. Put the other end of the shock cord through the other hole and squish the cord lock together to make it easy to pull the shock cord through. Stop when you have created the right size hole to make a snug fit around the sippy cup.
    3. Put the long end of the shock cord through both holes of the other double feed cord lock to create a loop for your carabiner.
    4. Attach the carabiner to the loop and secure the sippy cup tether somewhere to your bike.

What are your family’s favorite, on-the-bike snacks? Share them in the comments below.

And, if you’ve got questions about the Sippy Cup Tether, I’ll be happy to answer them in the comments. See you (and your family) out in the streets!

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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    Liz July 3, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    We love dry fruit. especially the sulfer free no sugar added pineapple rings. because after all they are rings and stay of fingers well. I keep a small bag in my Pannier and if we have a long ride I will put one or two in my chest pocket for easy rationing.

    We have also tethered the end of a cracker bag to the child seat so he could work his way through the broken pieces at the end of a bag. (last second inspiration when there were no whole crackers to dole out along the ride.) The bag stayed and was refilled for many months until we took it off.

    In the warm weather we snack less while riding because we have fewer deadlines so stop for lesurly snacks and we don\’t need food as a distraction from rain and cold.

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    Angela July 3, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    We relied on semantics for snacking and bribery. Libby always looked forward to her \’Go Home Snack\’ when I picked her up from preschool and when Ellie was younger the \’Travel Fairy\’ always mysteriously left her goodies that helped ease her way into trips.

    As for favorite snacks, our favorites were the ones that were big enough for little hands to hold without relying on a wrapper or container…fig bars, circle sandwiches and whole fruit!

    Drinks, well, we always stuck with a water bottle that looked just like the one in mama\’s water bottle cage, but lovingly decorated with their own stickers.

    Last but not least, with apologies to our dentist, we found that having a stash of wildly rainbow colored gumballs was the secret to turning any frown upside down.

    Happy riding kiddos!

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    C July 3, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Shorties b ridin dubz, yo.

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    Brian Johnson July 3, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    So what about store/business access?

    I live out in Lake Oswego and use my bike for any local trip I can– typically trips to the bank, the store for a few surprise grocery needs, post office. That sort of thing.

    Today my 5 year-old stayed home with me and I needed to make a deposit at the nearby Wells Fargo. I figured that the drive-through would be a great way to minimize my hassle with parking a trailer-bike. Nope. I was asked to go inside for my own \”safety\”. So now what should have been a breeze was a hassle. The icing on the cake is that there are no bike racks at this branch.

    They claimed that cars drive through \”really fast\”. I suggested that they put in a \”slow\” sign. Or maybe a bike rack.

    I can understand pedestrians not being allowed at the drive-through since they have no vehicle to park/lock-up/deal with. But I don\’t see how I\’m any different from a motorcycle and I\’m sure those would be allowed through the drive-through of the bank.

    Out here in the \’burbs getting around by bike is a bit more difficult as there are more SUVs on the road (it seems!) and far fewer concessions for folks traveling by bicycle.

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    Someone's Dad July 3, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Snacks are great for when errands go on for a long time (not to mention spare diapers and whatnot). But the tethered sippy-cup seems a bit much. God forbid a child should have to go 10 minutes without its sippity-cup-cup! It\’s like rock bands who have beer cans in their band photo because they can\’t stop drinking long enough to take the photo.

    I\’m all for making them happy but I\’d say the tethered sippy cup crosses over into the unreasonable/extreme that no kid should ask or expect of its parent. Not only is it messy, it could be dangerous to have stuff in your mouth whilst on a moving vehicle that might hit a bump or stop suddenly etc.

    The harder road, that requires more patience but pays off in spades in the long run, is to teach children how strong and independent they can be, i.e. how little they actually need this constant access to sipp-diddly-cupz. Thirst is a slow moving adversary, and their legitimate hydration needs are such that they can wait until the bike is stopped.

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    Kronda July 3, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    There\’s a killjoy for every post.

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    Someone's Dad July 3, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    I\’m not seeing the joy that I killed. Love your kids, don\’t spoil them. That\’s true joy.

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    Marion July 4, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Well, I obviously don\’t agree that having a tethered sippy cup is spoiling your child. However I can say that it is nice on really hot days to give your child access to water when they want it. I know that many riders take a sip of water from their water bottle at lights and this is the same developmentally appropriate opportunity I am giving my child with the added knowledge that the cup won\’t drop to the ground. I am on the side of hydration.

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    Kronda July 4, 2008 at 9:32 am

    \”It\’s like rock bands who have beer cans in their band photo because they can\’t stop drinking long enough to take the photo.\”

    You\’re comparing drunken band members to toddlers? Seems a little extreme.

    When I worked in a coffee shop, a woman walked up to the counter to order, and asked her daughter, who was perhaps 3, if she wanted to share a scone. \”I want my own scone!\” the kid whined. The woman turned to me and calmly ordered two scones.

    *That* is spoiling. Giving your kids water? Not so much. Plus those sippy cups have this great new technology where the hole is not very big, so I don\’t think choking is such a big risk, and a few dribbles down the chin never hurt anyone, especially on a hot day.

    I\’m glad I\’m not your two year old. I\’d much prefer to ride with Marion.

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    Ashley July 4, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Thanks for the post Marion. I work with kids & bikes through the CCC and snacks and hydration are super important to keep kids going strong, and happy. We take 30 second water breaks at stop signs, and 5 minutes snack/stretch breaks on rides. It\’s nice to see unqiue options for younger ones, who don\’t have the option to supply themselves like we do.

    Super awesome, thanks a bunch.

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    wsbob July 4, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Seems like a Camelback might somehow resolve the problem of escaping sippycups, and keep the child satisfactorily hydrated. Possibly the rider/chauffeur too if a \’Y\’ is inserted in the drink tube so there\’s one for both to drink from. Then maybe a two compartment Camelback could be devised(if they\’re not already available) so the moppett could have have their juice also. Sounds like a lot of potty trips to me…..

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    JayS. July 4, 2008 at 10:23 am

    I never consider giving a child water (the only thing I ever put in a sippy) to be spoiling them. We take many rides longer than a few minutes. I also commute many miles with my kids most every day (every season) and want to keep it an enjoyable experience. We only have a tethered cup on occasionally because it is not necessary all the time. When we want it, it sure is handy.

    Brian, I learned in high school that almost no business will let a bike use the drive through because of insurance restrictions. Store access is just the same as a car. we get out unload the child seat wait in line etc. We almost never have to park as far as the cars though. When I don\’t find racks I tell the business it is time to add them and let them know they can contact PDOT for staples. Sometimes I even ask to talk to a manager or store owner.

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    Marion July 4, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Thanks WSBob..
    Good idea for a camelback with my 6 year old son who\’s on the tag along.. My two year old is in diapers and I don\’t think the camelback would fit her or work with her sitting in a toddler bike seat.

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    Someone\\\'s Dad July 4, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    What Ashley recommends above is exactly what I\’m recommending, which is to take a BREAK to take a drink or a snack. And yes I apologize, I was picturing a sugary drink other than water, in the cup. I might be tempted to use the tethered cup if it were water. Sorry that wasn\’t more clear to all the people apparently so threatened by my ideas that they need to resort to name-calling and censorship (e.g. my previous comment before this one, that you will never see).

    The things I\’m railing against here are
    1) multi-tasking
    2) instant gratification
    3) parents over-achieving in the wrong ways
    …which, by the way are three classic plagues of the American suburban-style automobile-addicted lifestyle.

    Comparing rock stars and toddlers… that was what\’s known as \”a joke.\” Most jokes are extreme if you take them literally.

    As I said in the comment that was censored, and I\’ll try again: I applaud anyone who takes kids on bikes instead of caving in to the idea that you \”need\” a car.

    Thanks Marion for the post. I did think the snack ideas were helpful. You stated that you\’re on the \”side of hydration.\” I don\’t really care to pick \”sides\” because that\’s a game for politicians to start wars with, plus you and I are already on the same side, which is \”those who want to raise happy & healthy kids\” even if say, I\’m not totally sold on a tethered sippy-cup!

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    Travis July 4, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Great post. I love it. My sons, as well, enjoyed it when I picked them up with snacks after school. It was a nice quiet time, a calm down and get some nourishment time. It was the best part of my day. I like the idea of tethering the cup. I used to do that when they were in hiking back packs, but had not transfered the thought to the trailer or seat. However, I will now!

    Bike My Family

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    Someone\\\\\\\'s Dad July 4, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Can\’t take it, eh?

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    Patrick July 4, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Precisely why I don\’t have kids- fear of criticism from other parents. Jeez Someone\’s Dad, seriously criticizing the tippy cup?

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    Mike Perrault July 4, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    @ #4–> Brian Johnson,

    If you\’re able and willing, why not ask them to put in some staples and if they refuse, pull your accounts from their bank. Or at least make a convincing go of it.

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    C July 5, 2008 at 10:18 am

    This is why you don\’t have kids? haha

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    Someone Else's Dad July 7, 2008 at 11:31 am

    My daughter is glad that her dad is not Someone\’s Dad, but rather Someone Else\’s Dad. How sad, the lad who had Someone\’s Dad. Is he a bad dad? Is he a mad dad? Someone Else\’s Dad\’s daughter thinks her dad is rad, and I, for one, am glad.

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    Zaphod July 7, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Re Brian Johnson,
    I\’ve experienced that many years ago. I find that the drive-thru ATM doesn\’t talk back and make such requests.

    Worth a try might be to get a little bit belligerent. Say you are in a hurry, don\’t have a lock, etc. If you refuse to move for a minute and there are cars queuing up, they might just sort it out just to make you go away.

    I\’m always frustrated with, \”Company Policy.\” Company policy often = just one person\’s idea. And that person may not have considered all the issues.

    As for the sippy cup, we outfit the kids with water access. Just keeps things peaceful.

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    Jeremy Towsey-French July 7, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Excellent post, Marion! There are definitely several factors that can go into making a family ride (no matter how short or long) a successful ride. From leading sing-along songs and providing snacks, to giving ownership of the equipment selection, family biking is a pleasure that benefits from good planning. My daughter took to cruising on the cushy Mundo with vigor when she found out that she was going to get pink grips with sparkly tassels. You can see the photos here. Thanks much for posting these excellent, low-waste recipes, as well!

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    Marion July 8, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Thanks Everyone for posting your support and great ideas as well. I am still struggling with the fact that my son now hates his own bike ( it\’s not yellow) even though he is totally capable of riding on his own… Maybe pink tassles would work!

    He is afraid of falling.. so he needs more time. We will get there.

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