Capacity Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Emily Hume

Emily is a Reading Specialist and Literacy coach in a public elementary school with a Master's Degree in Elementary Education.

You may not even know it, but you use capacity every day! It's all around you - in the glass of milk you pour, the bin you put your toys in, even in your bowl of cereal! In this lesson, you will learn the definition of and important facts about capacity.

What Is Capacity?

You decide to pour a nice glass of chocolate milk! Grabbing a glass and the milk, you begin to pour - when something on TV catches your eye. You keep pouring and pouring until...splash! Milk all over the counter! What happened?

You just learned a lesson about capacity, or the amount a container can hold. There is a limit to how much milk will fit in your glass, and if you try to go past that limit, the milk will start to overflow!

Two Ways to Measure Capacity

There are two ways to measure capacity: One is called customary, which is the measurement used for the most part in the United States, and the other is called metric and is used throughout the world.

Facts about Customary Measurement

  • Customary measurement can be a gallon, quart, pint, or cup. You can even divide that cup into smaller capacities like half cup, quarter cup, tablespoon, or even teaspoon!
  • Gallons, quarts, and pints are typically used to measure the capacity for liquids, while cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons can be used to measure liquids like milk or solids like flour.
  • Gallons are the biggest measurement tool; 1/8 of a teaspoon is usually the smallest.

Measuring Comparison Gallon to Teaspoon
Measuring Comparison Gallon to Teaspoon

Facts about Metric Measurement

  • There are only three countries in the whole world that don't typically use the metric system to measure capacity! The United States is one of those countries, although you can find metric measurements in some places.
  • Liters and milliliters are the two most common metric units of capacity. When you buy a bottle of soda at the grocery store, those are usually 2 liters. A milliliter would be just a tiny drop of that soda!

Milliliter versus Liter
Milliliter versus Liter

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