How to Teach My Child to Estimate & Measure the Capacity of Liquids

By Kathryn Hatter
Use a gallon of milk as an example of this unit of liquid capacity.
Use a gallon of milk as an example of this unit of liquid capacity.

You may take cups, pints, quarts and gallons for granted, but it can be challenging for kids to keep these units of capacity straight. As you try to teach a child the various units of capacity measurement, add some real-life scenarios into the lessons so your child learns how to apply the knowledge. By knowing how to estimate the capacity of various containers, your child will have a solid understanding of liquid capacity units.

Present the standard units of liquid capacity measurement to your child. These units include cups, pints, quarts and gallons. Explain to your child that each unit builds on the next largest. Cups are the smallest, equaling 8 ounces. Pints are the next largest, with one pint equaling two cups or 16 ounces. Quarts are the next largest, with one quart equaling two pints, four cups or 32 ounces. Gallons are the largest, with one gallon equaling four quarts, eight pints, 16 cups or 128 ounces.

Show your child an example of each unit of measurement so he can see the size of the units. Measuring cups or containers in each of the four sizes would be ideal to enable you to fill each cup with water.

Demonstrate filling the containers for your child. Fill the 1 cup measuring cup with water and pour it into the 1 pint measuring cup. Show your child that the pint container is half full and pour one more cup of water into the pint cup to fill it completely. Take the water in the pint measuring cup and pour it into the quart measuring cup to fill it halfway. Show your child that the pint cup filled the quart measuring cup halfway and then pour another pint of water into the quart cup to fill it completely. Repeat the same process one more time with the quart measuring cup and the gallon container, except this time use four quarts to fill the gallon container completely.

Empty the containers and encourage your child to repeat the same process so he can see and experience how each unit of capacity builds on the next larger container.

Talk about some real-life capacities that are familiar to your child. Ask your child how much milk he drinks in a glass with a meal -- he should estimate 1 cup. Ask your child how much water is in a small fish bowl -- he should estimate 1 quart. Ask your child which unit of capacity he would use to measure how much water fills a bathtub -- he should tell you gallons.

Quiz your child often on units of capacity to cement the concepts in his mind. As you’re cooking, doing laundry, filling birdbaths or watering plants, talk about the amount of water or other liquids you are using and encourage your child to estimate.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.