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By Karen Hart

Explore boxes, jugs and other containers with your class, as an introduction to thinking about volume.

Girl in box

Before looking at the subject of containers, young children will probably need to have a think about what the word ‘containers’ actually means. A good definition is: ‘a container is an object such as a box, jug or jar that can hold and carry something’. Give some examples, such as cereal boxes, cans for holding fizzy drinks, matchboxes and big container lorries used to carry bricks and timber.

You could also introduce the topic by starting off with a couple of the following activities:
  • Ask children to bring in some containers from home for a containers themed interest table.
  • Have a competition to see who can fit the most objects into a matchbox. Use any little objects, such as beads, little sweets, seeds, buttons and small coins.
  • Decorate some little boxes with collage materials to make attractive containers for pens and pencils.

Which container holds the most water?

You will need:
  • Watertight containers of different shapes and sizes
  • Small jug or cup
  • Start by asking children what they can tell you about the containers? What do they think they held? Would it have been a solid or a liquid?
  • Next ask children to put containers in size order. Have they ordered them by height alone? Now ask children to put containers in order to show which will hold the most water, is the order the same? And why have they chosen this order?
  • Next, explain that a container is only really ‘bigger’ if it holds more. Introduce the word capacity, explaining that it means the most of something that a container can hold.
  • Next, let children fill each individual container, one cup or jug full at a time, making a note of how many cupfulls have been used. Did children correctly guess the biggest container?
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