Effective Practice Guides

Measurement: Know

Goals for Preschoolers

  • P-MATH 8. Child measures objects by their various attributes using standard and non-standard measurement. Uses differences in attributes to make comparisons.

Teaching Practices


Read and discuss books about differences in attributes.
After reading the book, Actual Size, to the preschoolers, Ms. Trent and the children talk about the amazing facts pictured in the book. Four-year-old Charlie says, “The gorilla’s hand is all that would fit on one page, but the whole mouse could fit on another page.” Ms. Trent adds, “Gorillas are very big. How big are our hands? How could we compare them to the gorilla’s hand?”

Offer activities that allow children to measure.
During the last group socialization session, parents helped children trace their bodies on brown paper and add clothing and facial features. While looking at all the traced bodies, home visitor Mr. Yancey noted how they were similar but different. Ms. King, 3-year-old Helaina’s mother, asked her daughter, “How is your body like your friends’ bodies? How is it different?” Today, Mr. Yancey points out the basket of cloth measuring tapes donated by a furniture store. After reminding the children about being similar but different, he talks about the measuring tapes—what they are and how they are used. Helaina picks one up and starts to spread it out on the floor. As she does this, Mr. Yancey asks Ms. King, “What do you think Helaina will measure with the tape?”


Provide standard and non-standard tools for measuring length, width, and height.
Ms. Rhodes offers a group of four-year-old children a basket of non-standard items they can use to measure things. The basket has baby shoes, tongue depressors, blocks, empty cans, race cars, and pine cones. At group meeting, she presents a challenge for the children: How can you measure a carpet tile? She chose a carpet tile because she wanted the children to think of smaller things to measure with. Soon, she sees several children working together to figure out how many tongue depressors are needed to go from one end of the tile to the other.

Provide tools for measuring quantity and weight.
The balance scale is very popular this week. The 3-year-olds in Ms. Lopez’s family child care home picked the ripe vegetables in the garden. Now, they want to weigh them. Milo puts a head of bok choy on one side of the scale. He says, “Stacey, you put cherry tomatoes on your side.” As Stacy puts the tomatoes on the scale, Ms. Lopez comments, “Hmmm. The bok choy is heavy. The scale is all the way down on the bok choy side. I wonder how many tomatoes it would take to make the scale even.”


Involve children in a real-life measurement task.
Ms. James has a job for 5-year-old Felipe. She says, “Felipe, could you help me please? My neighbor gave us a love seat for our reading corner. I want to see if it will fit. If you hold the tape measure at one end, I can stretch it to the corner and see if we have enough space.” Felipe eagerly joins his teacher, saying, “I hope it fits. I like sitting on a couch to read. We have a comfy couch in our trailer at the farm where we live.”

Use teachable moments as opportunities to discuss measurement.
Many of the children are ready to go outdoors, but some members of the Cool Cats class are still putting on their coats and hats. To keep everyone occupied, Ms. Lang suggests a new way to line up. “Let’s have the shorter Cool Cats in front and then taller children behind them.” Three-year-old Jackson, who struggles with spatial awareness, asks, “Where do I go?” Ms. Lang asks the children how they can help Jackson figure out where he should stand. Thomas suggests standing next to Jackson to see who is shorter or taller. Ms. Lang says, “That’s a good idea. Try it!” When Thomas stands next to Jackson, the other children tell him he should stand in front of Jackson because Jackson is taller.