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Captain Capacity

Exploring Capacity


In Nursery we always have a large water tray available as one of our free choice activities. When our water area focus is on capacity the water tray would be enhanced with a variety of cups, jugs, spoons, bowls, and any oddly shaped beakers that we can find in the science cupboard!

A teacher would work with small groups enhancing their play by suggesting tasks, asking questions, and encouraging them to use the language of capacity.  The vocabulary we would use in capacity tasks are listed below.

We would begin with...

And then, once confident with these concepts, we would begin to introduce....

This vocabulary is available to print below as a matching activity, adult reads the word and child finds the appropriate picture. 

Much easier and more fun however to fill cups to the correct levels (or draw simple jars or cups and colour them to the different levels) and simply ask your child to find the correct cup/picture when you ask.

Investigating Capacity

We would suggest you put on wellies and waterproofs and enjoy this task outside but make it work for you by modifying it as much as you need to.

You will need:

plastic cups (or whatever you have available) 

plastic jug or vessel for pouring

waterproof toy undersea creatures (or other toys)


Using plastic cups tell your child that the different animals all need a drink.  Some are thirstier than others so one might ask for a full cup of water, another a cup that is almost empty....

Help your child to check that the levels they have poured are accurate.

Can your child begin to use the vocabulary and ask you for different drinks on behalf of the toys?

Capacity Challenge

If you would like to further challenge your child you could talk about how many cups of water (or pasta/cereal - whatever you have available) it would take to fill a larger plastic bowl or toy bucket.  You could help them to predict how many cupfuls will be needed to fill the bowl, then show them how to pour in each full cup carefully counting how many it takes to fill the larger bowl. 

Find a few more bowls of different sizes and ask which bowl will need most cupfuls to fill it? Talk about each cup needing to be full before it is poured in to the bowl to make the investigation accurate and fair.