Set up a water-play discover centre to learn about volume with these top tips.
Learning about volume activity using water
In math, as with all things, it’s so important that children have the opportunity to learn through real experiences before they move onto ‘in your head’ activities.
When learning about volume, children need to see and feel the capacity of containers to understand the concept before they can go on to being able to calculate the volume of a shape on paper.
NurtureStore is your go-to resource for these hands-on, creative learning activities that put the magic back into learning. We have ‘the fun lesson’ for a huge variety of math and literacy skills. In this activity we’re playing with water to learn about volume.
In this lesson, children can:
:: explore volume using water play
:: compare the volume of different containers
:: measure volume using cups and spoons, including recording their findings
:: explore colour mixing using fractions
:: use mathematical language including volume, capacity, more, less, bigger, and smaller
:: a variety of containers in different shapes and sizes
:: jugs, spoons, cups
:: food colouring (optional)
:: writing materials
How to set up a volume discovery centre
Set up a table, indoors (perhaps on a rug or large towel to catch spills) or outdoors.
Set out a variety of differently-shaped/sized containers, spoons, jugs, and cups that your children can use to fill, pour, and re-fill.
Provide plenty of water. You might like to dye some of the water with food colouring to make it easier for your children to see the different levels of water within the containers.
Write out a set of questions and vocabulary to get your children started with their mathematical enquiries, including:
- Which container is taller?
- Which container is the smallest?
- Which container holds the most water?
- How many spoonfuls fill this up?
- How many cups can this hold?
You can also include materials for mark making and recording findings: a chalk board and chalk or clipboards with paper and pens.
Then invite your children to play and explore.
They can use the question prompts and their own curiosity to fill, empty and refill their containers.
Invite them to make up their own questions and to investigate answers.
They can keep a count of cups and spoonfuls on the writing materials.
As they play, lots of mathematical language can come into practice, using vocabulary such as bigger, smaller, more, less, biggest, smallest, volume, how many, height and width.
They have the opportunity to count and add.
Let them lead the way with their enquiries, but you can support their learning by reflecting on what they are noticing and asking extension questions. Using the phrase “I wonder…” is a great prompt:
I wonder how many cups you’d need to fill this bottle?
I wonder which one of these bottles can hold the most water?
It’s fun to have your children guess which container will hold the most water before you measure – especially if you can find a container that looks smaller but in fact has a bigger capacity!
Colour mixing extension
You can also use this activity to explore colour mixing and fractions.
Set out the water discover centre with water dyed in the three primary colours of red, blue and yellow.
Invite your children to use this primary-coloured water in their play to explore what happens then they mix the colours.
Pour some red and some blue water into a container and create purple water.
Mix red and yellow to make orange.
And make green by pouring blue into yellow.
You can incorporate fractions into this play by mixing half a jug of one colour with half a jug of another.
Then try again by mixing a quarter of one colour with three quarters of the other and comparing the shades you have made.
Free math printables
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