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Teaching Concepts for Body Sensations: Full vs Empty; Heavy vs Light

Help your child learn important concepts for body sensations using everyday activities.


Learning to notice and identify feelings of full and empty, or heavy and light are helpful for children when they are learning to interpret their body sensations. You can use simple phrases to explain these feelings, for example:

  • My stomach is empty/it feels light and I am hungry
  • My stomach is full/feels heavy; I am not hungry anymore
  • My bottom is full/heavy with poo
  • My bottom is empty of poo and I feel lighter
  • My bladder is full of wee
  • My bladder is empty of wee and I feel comfortable and lighter

Using everyday activities is a great and easy way to introduce concepts and provide ‘real life’, tangible examples. These ideas need to be graded to your child’s developmental level, including analysing risks to health and safety, to ensure safety of your child.


Here are a few ideas to use during your child’s day to get you started:

Filling and emptying containers through play

  • Use water bottles or buckets and fill with water, sand, soil, rice, pebbles, ping pong balls, pasta etc.
  • Notice the weight of the containers – look at them, how do they feel, how do they sound?
  • Close your eyes and guess which container is heavier compared to another container – which container feels or sounds heavier?
  • For children who like colouring in, use drawings of containers that are full and containers that are empty. Colour in the container to make it ‘full’ – there are lots of worksheets online to download or copy.


Explore changing volumes of water in the bathroom

  • Feel the weights of balloons full, half full, quarter full – then ‘empty’ into the sink/toilet/bath.
  • Bath time is a great opportunity for filling and emptying activities including the actual task of filling then emptying the bath. Talk about where the water goes as this increases a child’s curiosity and understanding of where our waste goes.
  • After using the toilet – notice how the poo has filled the toilet bowl; after flushing notice how the toilet bowl is empty.


Use everyday items to practice noticing full and empty

  • Carrying loads – ‘what’s heavier/lighter’ – ‘what’s bigger/smaller’ – compare.
  • When actively ‘filling’ a basket with laundry then ‘empty’ basket by “filling” washing machine.
  • Fill basket or tub to tidy toys – floor space now “empty” of toys.
  • Use weighing scales and measuring jugs with measurements to give a clear visual – which one is fuller?
  • Filling a lunch box, loading a plate of food – after eating notice: “it’s empty”.
  • Help to notice when the bin is full and needs to be emptied – why do we need to empty? This helps your child to understand that our homes are clean and free from germs. Same as our bodies when we need to let our poos and wees out so our bodies can be healthy.


Progress to introducing concept of ‘nearly full’ and ‘nearly empty’

  • Too full = contents spill out; nearly empty = need to refill.
  • Use the car as a helpful example – we need to fill-up to power the car. If it gets too full, fuel spills out and makes a mess. If the car is empty, the car stops.
  • We need to fill up a car at regular intervals to keep the car driving, similar to how we need to regularly eat food to keep us healthy and active.
  • Introduce counting skills. This basket is heavier because it has 10 balls – more than the basket with 5 balls.


Use questioning about body feelings to explore full and empty

  • At meal times notice feelings before eating and after.
    • Where does your body feel full? How full does your stomach feel?
  • When needing to poo – prompt with questions like “is your bottom heavy/full?” After the toilet, use similar questions like “is your bottom empty/light?”.
  • Model yourself what these body feelings are like “My bladder is feeling so full I have to hold on! My body is telling me I need to do a wee. Is your bladder full?”.


Online video resources


Download our full vs empty activity ideas sheet that you can print and put up at home for easy access to the above activity ideas.



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