Many math concepts come across to kids as abstract or tedious with rote calculation. But measurement is truly a practical skill and capacity that's a daily reality of life. Your child can explore fun activities on measuring capacity to discover just how it affects his daily activities and build his practical awareness and measurement skills.
With young children, the goal is to expose them to measurement concepts as informal play and build the formal understanding as they mature. Playing in water and sand is a perfect opportunity to practice capacity measurement. If you have a water or sand table handy, your child can use that. But if not, you can improvise with a sink or bathtub full of water, a sandbox or a plastic tub of rice. Give your child measuring cups, pints, quarts and gallons and let her experiment with how many of a smaller measure it takes to fill up a larger measure.
Discovering equivalent capacity measurements can be an excuse for a relay race, if you have several children on hand for teams. Opposite each team, place a set of teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, pints, quarts and gallons, and a container of water. State a challenge such as how many tablespoons in a cup or cups in a gallon. Each team takes turns one at a time pouring a full measure of the smaller unit into the larger unit. The first team to completely fill the larger container and call out the right answer wins the round. Another capacity game idea is to give each player a set of capacity-equivalent strips so that, for instance, it takes 3 teaspoons to cover 1 tablespoon, two cups for a pint, four pints to a quart and so on. Each player rolls a die and takes that many ounces. When she collects enough for an equivalent higher measure, she trades. So when she gets 16 tablespoons, for example, she trades for a cup, then 2 cups for a pint, continuing to collect and trade up until someone reaches 1 gallon and wins.
Different capacities are best measured by different units. Your child can practice which is the most appropriate measure for different substances by sorting out picture cards and matching them to the appropriate measuring tool. For example, you normally measure gasoline by the gallon but flour by the cup. Alternately, you can make a set of equivalent-measure matching cards and play a concentration game with your child.
Capacity Scavenger Hunt
With a capacity scavenger hunt, you can build your child's awareness of real world measurement. He can search at a grocery store or in your refrigerator and cupboards. Give him a list of various capacity measures and challenge him to find as many items as possible in each category. For more fun, compete against a friend or sibling to find the most items in each category.