Home Activity

Sid the Science Kid: Let's Measure!

What's The Point

Children begin to understand the value of standard measuring tools when they experiment with different sizes of non-standard units such as paperclips and pencils.

Related Game

Crystals Rule! – Use non-standard units such as paperclips and blocks to measure and compare different sized crystals.

This Activity Will Help Your Child

  • Understand non-standard measurement
  • Understand comparing the measurements of one item to another

Book Suggestions

  • Actual Size
    by Steve Jenkins
  • Inch by Inch
    by Leo Leoni


  • 5 different objects
  • Another object to use as a measurement tool (e.g. paperclip, coin, pencil)
  • A ruler

How Do I Do It?

  1. Ask your child to pick out three to five objects to measure (e.g., stuffed animal, soda bottle, book).
  2. Choose another object to use as a non-standard measurement tool. The tool should be at least half the size of the smallest object being measured.
  3. On a table, place the objects to be measured.
  4. Ask your child to measure each object with the measurement tool. If you are using coins or paperclips, it may be easier for your child to use a lot of them, lining them up end to end next to the object and then counting them. Ask questions using comparative words such as "taller/shorter," "smaller/bigger," and "wider/thinner." How many pennies long is the book? Is the stuffed animal taller or shorter than the book? Is it wider or thinner?
  5. Try measuring one of the objects with a tool of another length (e.g., a pencil or pen). How many pennies long is the book? How many pencils long is it?
  6. Now show your child the ruler. Explain that the length of the ruler is called a standard: the same length is used by everybody. Help your child measure each object with the ruler.

Take It Further

Explain to your child that an object can be measured in different ways: length, width, depth. You also can measure only a small part of an object. Let your child use the non-standard tools and the ruler to measure different objects around the house. Show your child how to measure his or her own height.