While measuring might seem like a rote task to you -- what mom really gets enjoyment out of sifting the exact amount of flour necessary into a cup? -- it can help young children to learn basic math concepts. Above and beyond math learning, fun activities on measuring capacity can help your little learner to broaden her thinking and build her analytic skills.
Before trying any measuring activity with your child, keep her age and developmental level in mind. Sure, your 2-year-old may enjoy pouring water from one cup to another, but her cognitive skills aren't quite up to understanding measurement comparisons yet. By the time kids reach the later preschool years into kindergarten, they are getting ready to understand transformations. In other words, they are learning that changing the shape or size of the container isn't always the same thing as changing the measurement or capacity. While your 4-year-old may still have trouble understanding transformations when it comes to measuring, capacity activities will help to build this budding ability.
Don't make learning about measurement dull and drab. Brighten up your little one's math lessons with a color-rich capacity activity. Fill a few plastic buckets or large-sized cups with water. Add two to three drops of food coloring into each container, making each one a different shade. Give your child another few plastic measuring cups. The clear ones work best, allowing your child to see the colors that she is measuring. Help your child to pour one color of liquid into each cup. Add different amounts, ranging from a tiny quarter of a cup to 2 cups. Talk about which color cup has more liquid and which has less. This simple comparison is easy enough for even a 3-year-old to try. When you are done, have your little learner mix the colors into new combo shades, pouring the water from cup to cup.
Instead of always using standard measuring cups and devices, help your child to make her own tools. Start with a traditional measuring cup. Measure out a set amount such as 1 cup. Choose your own homemade measuring device such as a plastic tube, large drinking cup, reused yogurt container or plastic-ware. Empty the water into your chosen container. Use a colorful piece of electrical tape to mark the top of the water line. Empty the water and continue to use your new homemade device to measure other substances such as juice or flour.
What better way to get a real-world grasp on making measurements than cooking? While your child can't actually cook with heat -- never allow your child to use or go near a heat source such as a stove or an oven -- she can measure and mix wet and dry ingredients. Pick a no-cook recipe or go for a traditional one, only allowing your child to do the prep. Get out a few different measuring cups and spoons. Help your child to pour and measure the ingredients, making comparisons between the sizes as you go along. Ask her if 1 cup is bigger or smaller than 1 tablespoon.