Use Stacking Cups To Teach Your Child New Skills by sams toy world

Stacking Cups

Use Stacking Cups To Teach Your Child New Skills by sams toy world.

Depending on the age of your child, stacking cups will have different purposes. The beauty of stacking cups is that they are so versatile that your child will likely get something out of them regardless of their age. We’ve broken it down into age groups, and how you can use stacking cups to promote learning at every stage.

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Your baby will hold, chew, and wave around their stacking cups. If you have cups of different materials or weights, this is a great form of exploration and experimentation for your child. Don’t expect them to build a tower, or even successfully place the cups inside each other just yet (at least not all and in the correct order).

You might find that older babies (9 months +) enjoy putting things inside the cups which is great because it encourages fine motor development. Also pouring items in and out will strengthen wrists and promote the use of both hands together.

Stacking cups can also be used in a language building activities, where you can narrate what your child is doing while labeling colors, sizes and measurement. For example, “I can see you are holding the green cup, it is smaller than the blue cup you held before”.  It’s important for children to hear language even if you feel they don’t quite understand you just yet.

Toddlers & Preschoolers

Stacking cups can be even more beneficial for older children. Since they are an extremely open ended tool, they can be used to meet a range of learning outcomes for your child.

Below are some of the types of play and concept development that they can assist with, including literacy and STEM, starting with the simple version for toddlers and with modifications that can be made for older children.

Try These Games

Add an element of turn taking by transforming the cups into a cooperative game to build the tallest tower, or the widest tower. To mix it up, brainstorm together what you could cooperatively build before starting. 

A more complicated game for an older child could involve hiding the cups around the house, and having your child find them in the correct order. This means that when they find a cup they need to estimate whether they think the cup is the next cup in the order of size, or if they need to leave it and come back to it. You can help them with questions like ‘Do you think that cup is smaller or larger than the first cup you found? Do you think it is a little bit bigger/smaller or a lot bigger/smaller?’ You could help them out by numbering the cups. 


If you have the stacking cups that fit snugly into one another, you can explore the concept of volume with your child. Using water, or small objects (rocks, packing peanuts, lego bricks) or granules (wheat, rice), compare the volume of each cup. If using objects, you can discuss the concept of ‘the smaller the item, the greater the quantity’, and compare how many marbles can fit into the stacking cup versus how many golf balls. 

If using water, consider adding a measuring jug with numbers on it so that they can see the higher the number the greater the volume, and the larger the cup the higher the number on the measuring jug. If you have another set of stacking cups that are a different shape or size, combine them in the experimentation. Children hypothesising about which cup holds the most water when working with different widths as well as heights, is a crucial step in understanding volume. 

As always, when introducing a concept give your child time to play open endedly with the materials before asking them to hypothesise about the materials they are dealing with. This is the sort of activity that could be set up in a tray in the playroom for weeks on end, that children can build their capacity with each day. 



Building on the concept of volume, adding scales to the play will help children understand weight.

You can add scales, digital or analogue, and have children compare two cups of different sizes. Make sure the cups are filled with the same item on each side, and ask your child why you think it is important that you are only comparing cups filled with the same item. Make sure to do the same thing with the cups empty, and get your child to predict which cup is lighter and which is heavier.

A key concept of weight and measurement is that each cup is filled exactly to it’s capacity, not slightly below or slightly overflowing. Model and explain this to your child, each time you bring out the stacking cups until they embed this knowledge. 


In conjunction with numbering the cups, word based games can also be played with the cups. Syllables are something children need direct instruction in, rather than free exploration. Lots of singing and book reading contributes to their experience with syllables, however. 

Label three or four cups with one dot, two dots, three dots or four dots (you could also use the numerals, if your child is ready for them). Get a catalogue that your child can cut up, or use picture cards, with lots of illustrations of different things. You could pick a topic, like animals, or keep it open ended. Put all the pictures in a hat, and as you pull them out, have your child identify them and then together clap out the syllable sounds. For example, “Lion, Li - On. That’s two claps, so two syllables. Put the lion in the number two cup”. 

With materials like stacking cups there are lots of opportunities for a variety of play. All the ideas suggested above will only work if your child is interested and having fun. You might also find your child has even better ideas for stacking cups than we do!

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