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Language and Communication Understand and use full and empty  This resource has been viewed by a moderator.


Begins to understand the concepts 'full' and 'empty' with visual clues.

Early years skill:Shape, space and measure
Early years typical range:22-36m
P-scales/Curriculum skill:Maths Shape Space and Measures
P-scales/Curriculum level:P6
TAP skill:Language (old categories)
TAP level:TAP36
Pre/Nat. Curriculum Area:not specified
Pre/Nat. Curiculum Standard:not specified
Section:Early Years (0-5yrs) info; Primary (5-11yrs) info
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Activity/strategy name and materials required How to do the activity Key principles for doing the activity and comments
Make it float

Aprons for you and child.

Symbol for 'full' and 'empty'.

Four identical see-through. Four containers.

Objects that float.

Two large measuring jugs.

Food dye.

Paper towels.

Plastic sheet to work over.

Examples of full and empty symbols:

1. Present your child with two clear containers (i.e. clear glass or plastic).

2. You also have two clear containers.

3. Show them the empty symbol and say "Look. Empty".

4. Show them the jug of water.

5. Pour a bit of dye into the jugs, so that you have two coloured jugs of water.

6. Pour the water into a container until it is full. Stop and show your child the container. Say "Full" and show them the symbol.

7. Show them the other container and say "Empty" and show them the symbol.

8. Say "your turn" and then push their containers nearer to them. Give them the jug and say "pour". Encourage them to fill the container until it is full. Say "stop". Show them the 'full' symbol and say "full".

9. Take an object and drop it into your empty container.

10. Take another object and drop it into the full container and make a big splash.

11. Take another object and hold it over the child's two containers and ask "Which one? Full or empty?" Point to the corresponding symbols as you speak to help with their understanding.

12. Whichever symbol or container your child looks at, reaches for or touches, accept that as their choice, say what their choice was and then drop the object into that container.

13. Play this a few times, or until all the water is no longer in the container!

The use of dye is to provide a clear contrast between the full container and the empty container.

Put white paper underneath the containers, so that when your child makes a splash, patterns may form on the paper. This makes it interesting and may help to maintain their interest.

Be prepared to get wet!!

Have fun!!

Make it float again

Same materials as above

Watering the garden

Watering can (see through if possible).



Symbols for 'full' and 'empty'.

This is a practical activity that can be extended to a range of activities such as pouring drinks for peers.

Sand in the jar

At least two containers containing sand of two different colours.

Various see-through jars.

Tray/trough to stand jar in.

Dustpan and brush.


Full and empty symbol.

This activity can be done with beads, pasta, Lego etc.

If your child is quite visual, they may like to see the sand pouring from the jar or if they seek noise, then the Lego or pasta is good as it is noisy.

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