Big and Little Cups

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In this indoor or outdoor water activity, learners pour water from small cups to large cups and containers. In doing so, they discover water takes the shape of its container. They also learn that the same amount of water will always fill the same container to the same height, and the same amount of water will fill containers of different sizes and shapes to different heights. This activity is part of the curriculum Explore Water, related to Peep and the Big Wide World, a preschool science series on public television. The activity starts on page 15 of the PDF. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 4 - 6

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • small and large cups
  • containers
  • funnels of various shapes and sizes
  • plastic, newspapers, and/or towels to cover the floor
  • water table, pool, or container
  • water
  • water smocks (garbage bags with holes for head and arms work well.)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
    • Measurement
      • Size and Scale
  • Physical Sciences
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • About Inquiry
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Outdoor Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • PEEP and the Big Wide World


  • All rights reserved, WGBH, 2005

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation