Exploring Capacity with Coloured Water

Play with coloured water and plastic bottles and learn about simple capacity and measuring maths concepts at the same time!
Welcome to another activity in our Playful Maths series, which we are co-hosting with Learn with Play at Home. We focus on making maths playful, fun and totally hands-on and worksheet free! Each activity uses recycled materials and easy to obtain items from around the home, making them simple enough to set up quickly and cheaply. For these next two weeks we are using plastic bottles in our activities.

For this activity we used:
various size and shape plastic bottles (for e.g. shampoo & juice containers)
a scoop or cut bottle
coloured and scented warm water in a large tub (coloured with gel colouring and scented with vanilla essence)
We used coloured water so that it was very visible in the clear bottles.

 Onto the bottles I drew very simple markings, different on each one to show a range of potential measuring scales. On one I demarcated by writing “quarter, half, three quarters and full”, on another I wrote the same scale but numerically instead “1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 1” and on the last I roughly marked it into 10 equal portions, numbering them from 1-10 and marking off the half way point. The idea behind this was to give a large a range as possible and introduce lots of learning and vocabulary possibilities.

 Then they were simply invited to play, play, play! And as water play is one of their absolute favourites they dived right in (not literally) and set about scooping, pouring, filling and emptying. We talked about the half way mark on each bottle and what it represents, then they had the challenge of filling the bottles with water to meet the line exactly which was harder than it seemed and a real test of co-ordination and control when pouring.  They pointed to the numbers on the numerically scaled bottle and were able to read them off.

There are plenty of opportunities for learning lots of new mathematical vocabulary during the play and for seeing in a very visual way what a quarter, half, three quarters and full actually look and feel like.
What they are learning while they play:
maths: filling and emptying, understanding simple capacity and measures, non-standard units of measure, new vocabulary, recognising numerals
motor skills: using control when pouring, stacking and pouring with funnels and bottles, scooping water

Cakie: 4.5
Pop: 2.10
Bean: 12 mos

[Click the photo to see the whole series!]

Pop on over to Learn with Play at Home to see her bowling with plastic bottles game!
See our counting and addition machine here. 

Read about measuring with handprints here!

Join us both every Friday for our continuing series about Playful Maths ideas. Click the photo to see previous activities in the series. Have a material 
you would like us to use? Suggest it below!

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  3. says

    I really like this, we’re doing colour mixing today and I’m going to incorporate this with various coloured water (wonder how long it will take to get mud colour). Thanks

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  5. says

    Looking for ideas about how to reuse my glass bottles I’ve collected and I am giing to try this out :) nwver use scented water before too so this is a whole new experience! Looks like my son and me will have a great day of fun!! Thanks for sharing!

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