Linear Measurements: How to teach measuring to preschoolers

When I was in school, I remember memorizing measurement facts but never really quite understanding it.  I could measure objects but couldn’t really visualize the difference between measurements units.

Why is it important for children to learn about measurement?

As adults we take it for granted to know what rulers are and what they are used for, for example, but to a child it’s an important part of their learning. Children are constantly linking ideas and concepts to things in their lives and taking in differences naturally (hence why they are so curious and ask so many questions). Learning about measurement helps them to understand the difference in things such as sizes, temperatures and distances and so forth. Before they learn to measure with standard units, such as inches on a ruler they learn the concept of difference in heights, lengths as mentioned above.

Measurement is important for future math learning as these activities nurtures their critical thinking and problem solving skills. Using measurement tools and skills in everyday life, helps us to quantify the world around us. They tell us how tall we are, how hot we are, much much we drink, how heavy we are and how far it is to a location. It is also important for other everyday tasks such as cooking, organizing, understanding time and using money.

What measuring activities can you do with your preschooler?

 My son is visual learner like me, so when we started the unit on measurement, I wanted him to give him many visual representation of the concepts.

First we went around the house and searched the drawers for any measuring tools, such as rulers, tape measures and a steel rule (there are plenty of other ones too!) but these did the job.

types of measuring tools at home

Here are a few things we did.  E measured several objects and recorded the measurements in his notebook.  We measured the size of his toy cars, his desk, the height of a dining chair, the length of our living room rug, the width of the front door and the handle. I drew a few of these object in his book before we started so he could write the number next to the item. You could also go outside and measure items in nature, or backyard items, such as play equipment, toys or even how high or long your child can jump. This activity is a great one for rainy or cold weather to do inside as there are literally hundreds of items to measure.

After dinner we got everyone to stand against the wall to see how tall each family member was, the kids loved this task the best and it really helps them to grasp the concept of height and the numbers (putting it into perspective in an easy way for them to understand).

Then to really give him a chance to understand how an inch or 5 inches looked like, we created an anchor chart showing different measurements.  E was asked to find something that measures 1 inch or 3 inches.  He’d go off with the ruler, find and measure things and place it on the chart.

This is a fun way to get the kids involved and engaged in the lesson.

measuring activities for preschoolers

Measurement skills in the early years

Using every day items to line up for measuring activities
My little one lining up the cones at lacrosse training

Whilst your little one may be too young to read numbers on a ruler you may be surprised at the things they are doing simply with their hands and eyes to learn about measuring concepts.

For example, they may measure by…
– Lining up toy cars (or a set of same objects) in a long line or row
– Use a measuring cup to scoop dirt or sand into another container
– Use a cup in the bath to pour water into another smaller or larger container
– Line their books up from smallest to largest
– Line up their markers on a table to reach across the table
– Using comparison words such as bigger or shorter, smaller or taller

Ongoing measurement learning

During the days you and your child will come across lots of opportunities to discuss measuring in their every day play activities. This will help them to bridge the gap between what they see and what they understand. Making simple observations such as “Look, this cup is bigger than this one”. When they are in the bath and pouring cups of water into a bigger bowl, you can offer to count how many cups it takes to fill the bowl. By helping your preschooler understand measurement skills you are assisting them to establish an important math foundation they will continue to build on.

Teaching kids how to add and subtract

For more maths development you may like this article on teaching addition and subtraction to preschoolers.

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