Measurement is not only an essential life skill, it can also be a fun, hands-on activity. Generally, young learners are introduced to the idea by comparing sizes, then trying out some nonstandard measurement. Then it’s time to break out the rulers, scales, and measuring cups! These measurement activities cover these concepts and more, providing kids with lots of practice.
1. Start with an anchor chart
Measurement involves a lot of different terms and concepts. Make colorful anchor charts to help kids remember them all.
2. Read books about measurement
From superheroes to blue whales to 12 snails and a lizard, the main characters of these delightful children’s books teach the concepts of measurement in fun and engaging ways.
3. Introduce the concept of relative size
This colorful video explains the concept of relative size in a fun and entertaining way for young learners.
4. Practice comparing sizes
The pre-K crowd can get a head start by comparing sizes: taller or shorter, bigger or smaller, and so on. In this cute activity, kids make pipe cleaner flowers, then “plant” them in a Play-Doh garden from shortest to tallest.
5. Use LEGO bricks for nonstandard measurement
Nonstandard measurement is the next step for young learners. LEGO bricks are a fun hands-on manipulative that pretty much everyone has on hand. Use them to measure toy dinosaurs or anything else you have lying around.
6. Measure by the foot
Measure the length of bookcases, floor tiles, playground equipment, and more by pacing it off with your own two feet. If you like, you can measure the length of one foot and convert the nonstandard measurements to inches.
7. Compare height with yarn
Measure a child’s height in yarn, then have them compare the yarn’s length to other objects around the room. You can also create a fun display by taping up a picture of each child with their yarn to show their height.
8. Snip lengths of pipe cleaners
The more practice kids get with measurement, the better they’ll be. One easy idea is to cut random lengths of pipe cleaner and have students measure them in inches and centimeters. Pipe cleaners are inexpensive, so you can make enough for every child to get a handful.
9. Measure with paper clips
Make measuring fun by using different items to measure with. Try paper clips, marbles, erasers, etc.—anything that you have in the classroom.
10. Line up by size
Get your kids up and moving with this measurement lesson. Tell them the assignment is to work together to line up in a straight line from smallest to tallest. Try not to coach too much, see if they can work it out on their own. Once they master this formation, have them scramble up and try it again, this time from tallest to smallest.
11. Build a cityscape
First, kids cut out and design a city skyline. Then, they use their rulers to measure and compare the heights of the buildings.
12. Go on a measurement hunt
For a fun practice activity, have kids find objects that fit certain criteria. They’ll have to estimate, then measure to see if they’re right.
13. Race cars and measure the distance
Zoom! Send cars racing along from a start line, then measure how far they’ve gone.
14. Jump like a frog
If your kids need to move while they learn, they’ll love this activity. Kids stand on a starting line and jump forward as far as they can, marking their landing spot with tape (or sidewalk chalk if you’re outside). Use a measuring tape to calculate the distance, then see if you can beat it!
15. Play a game of measurement tag
You’ll need chart paper, colored markers, and a pair of dice for this one. Each player starts in a corner and rolls the dice to find the number of inches for that turn. They use a ruler to make a line in any direction. The goal is to catch another player at exactly their last stopping point. This is the kind of game that can go on for days; leave it posted in a corner for students to take their turns when they have a few spare minutes.
16. Introduce the metric system
This fun video introduces kids to the metric system and explains which measurements are best for measuring items of different sizes.
17. Learn to use a balance scale
Distance is only one form of measurement; don’t forget about weight! Compare two objects by holding them in your hands. Can you guess which weighs more? Find the answer by using the scale.
18. Improvise a scale from a hanger
No play scale on hand? Make one using a hanger, yarn, and two plastic cups!
19. Compare and measure liquid volume
Volume can be a little tricky for kids. It’s easy to assume the tallest container will hold the most liquid, but that may not be so. Explore by pouring water into various containers in this simple measurement activity.
20. Experiment with measuring cups and spoons
Prepare kids for cooking and baking by playing around with measuring cups and spoons. Rice is terrific for this activity, but it also works well in the sandbox.
21. Match conversion puzzles
There are so many terms and conversions to learn when it comes to measurements! Grab these free printable puzzles to give kids a fun way to practice.
22. Measure perimeter with chocolate kisses
Apply your measuring skills to area and perimeter activities. Start with nonstandard measurement, like seeing how many chocolate kisses it takes to outline an object.
23. Set up a perimeter lab
Continue the perimeter learning with a measuring lab. Provide a variety of objects for kids to measure. Practice makes perfect!
24. Measure area with crackers
Square snack crackers like Cheez-Its are perfect for a hands-on activity to measure area and perimeter. Starburst candies also work well.
25. Use yarn to introduce circumference
How do you use a flat ruler to measure a round or irregular surface? Yarn to the rescue! Use it to introduce circumference by measuring an apple. (For more advanced students, cut the apple in half to measure diameter and use that to calculate the circumference too.)
26. Estimate the height of a tree
When it’s not practical to climb to the top of a tree with a measuring tape, try this method instead! Learn how it works at the link above.
27. Measure elapsed time
Learning to tell time is a foundational skill taught in the early grades. Once the concept is introduced, you can teach your students to measure elapsed time. This fun video is a great visual starting point.