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In the story of ‘Peace At Last’ the leaky tap drips loudly “DRIP, DRIP…” and this got me thinking about capacity. Did you know that a dripping tap can fill a coca cola can in 4 hours with wasted water? Talk to your child about how important it is to make sure the taps in the house are fully turned off so that you don’t waste water and help to protect the environment.


Children in Nursery should have opportunities to explore liquid capacity in relation to the language of “full” “half-full” and “empty.”



Use water (or squash which is easier to see!) and cups to explore the ideas of “full” “half-full” and “empty” during this week. You could ask your child to fill the cups to full or half-full and then order them empty to full. You could then mix up the cups and ask your child to re-order them or even add extra cups with amounts that are in between those you already have. You could discuss them when making drinks in the kitchen, when cooking, when in the bath, when watering the garden or just when playing and exploring with water in a water tray or bowl.


IMPORTANT: Young children often hold a very common misconception about capacity, that tall containers always hold more water than short ones. Try and provide opportunities to explore tall and thin containers vs, short and wide containers to address this and support their understanding of this.


Video Challenge: Exploring empty, half full and full with Miss Bagnall



Some other ideas you could use to help you explore capacity:

  • Potions play. Provide different bottles, containers, cups and bowls for your child to explore and use to make potions or perfumes, supporting them to use the language of capacity.
  • Provide a range of different bottles to explore e.g. perfume bottle, shampoo bottle, water bottle and explore filling and pouring.
  • Provide a range of containers for children to explore. Which one will hold the most water? The least? Can you pour all of this container’s water into that one? Will it fit? Explore what happens when containers overflow.
  • On an empty plastic bottle, draw lines up the side. You could write numbers up the side and ask your child to fill the bottle to a certain number, adding more for a higher number or pouring some out for a lower number. Label empty, half-full and full on the bottle.
  • Make a rain gauge using a plastic bottle and talk about how much rain water you collect.
  • Set up a café and play together, with your child following instructions about the drinks you would like to order. “Please can I have a full cup of tea?” “Ooh I will have half a strawberry milkshake please.”
  • Fill glasses with different amounts of water and carefully tap them with a pencil. Each glass will make a different sound and you can play them like an instrument.



Note: This week’s fine-motor skills activities in Physical Development also link to capacity.