Measurement for young children is really about the idea of comparison.  Is the red pipe cleaner longer than the green one?  Which carrot is the longest? The shortest?  This is really an exercise in evaluation and estimation - important real worlds skills. Using rulers may be an important skill, but being able to judge length, weight, volume, size, etc. is developed through experiences with matching and comparing objects. Children also need to practice using the tools of measurement such as scales, cups, thermometers, and rulers. But don’t rush for those rulers too soon. Young children benefit from “non-standard units” of measure.  An “inch” is a very abstract concept - but measuring with unifix cubes, blocks, body parts, or whatever is easily available and familiar is more meaningful and teaches the big idea that objects can be represented by units of measurement.

Making comparisons is part of children’s day - often with without them realizing it. They use the language ‘more’ and ‘less’ then as they eat Goldfish at snack, play with Unifix cubes at choice time and fill up containers in the sensory table. In measuring, children begin with direct comparison; placing objects next to each other and move on to comparing lengths indirectly.


Click on the link below for a video lesson on


  The teacher makes comparison between a child’s head and a dinosaur’s head. The idea of “big” and “small” is made more meaningful by using the children’s own bodies to explore this concept of size.  Envision doing this activity on your playground or in the hallway.