How Big? How Small? Measurement Activities

As a young child, the world is full of new and interesting objects of all shapes and sizes. With these exciting images come new descriptive words as well, such as big, small, long, tall, and many more. But while learning how to describe objects is a big step in the development process for your child, understanding the true size through the use of relative measurements can be a giant leap towards deeper cognitive thinking.

Bigger Than? Smaller Than?

To perform this measurement activity, start with a few of your child’s favorite toys that vary greatly in shape and size. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that while we as adults may understand measurements in inches or feet, children see the world differently starting out.

Ask your child which toy is bigger or smaller than the others. Then, begin by asking them “how much bigger,” or “how much smaller.” If they don’t understand the concept of feet or inches, have them use relative measurements. For example, one teddy bear might be as big as two cars, or one ball might be as big as twenty marbles. Be sure to pick concepts or ideas that they will understand.

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Inches and Feet

Once they are old enough and understand basic measurements, it’s time to break out the ruler! Before you begin this activity for learning measurement, make sure they understand that a ruler is divided into twelve individual sections called ‘inches’.

After they grasp this concept, pick one of their favorite toys and line it along the ruler. Have them tell you how many inches this toy is. For example, “this toy boat is four inches.” Now compare it to another one of their favorite toys of a different size. For example, “this toy car is three inches.” Once they describe their toys, ask them the important question, “Which toy is bigger or longer than the other?” If they understand the concept of measurement now, they should understand that the toy that reaches further on the ruler is the larger toy.

Math Problems

For the even more advanced or older children, bringing math into the mix can be another great way for teaching measurement. Once your child masters the measurement activities using the ruler, begin to ask them questions that use basic math equations to describe the measurement of their toys.

For example, if they have a toy car that is three inches long, and a toy boat that is four inches long, ask them, “How many inches longer is the boat than the car?” These simple equations should work well for students that have already begun studying basic math in school.

If your child grasps this quickly and you are feeling daring, bring in more complex ideas. Find something that is exactly one inch long, and use another toy that is exactly three inches long. Then ask your child, “How many times longer is the bigger object than the smaller one?” If they already understand basic multiplication, then the ruler will act as a great visual that will help them further understand the concept of measurement.

The World’s Full of Objects

As your child further understands the idea of measurements of objects and things around them continue to facilitate learning activities by using anything you can find. The world is your classroom and your child is your star pupil!


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