Before your second grader begins to use standard units of measurement such as a ruler or meter stick to measure things, it's helpful - and not as daunting - to begin by allowing him to experiment by using non-standard units he is already familiar with. Using items such as plastic links, or strips of paper will enable him to practice measuring without the worry of having to be exact. This activity uses nothing more than some strips of paper to bring along on a scavenger hunt in your home as you and your child search for items to measure. You'll have loads of fun together searching and measuring!
What You Do:
- Prepare 6-10 paper strips by simply cutting strips of paper from white unlined paper or construction paper, approximately ½ inch wide and various lengths long. Label each strip with either a number or letter (A-J or 1-10)
- Using an unlined sheet of paper and either a computer or a pencil create a chart. The chart will need boxes large enough to record either pictures or a list of the items you will find on your measurement scavenger hunt corresponding to particular strips. Boxes should be approximately 2 inches wide and 3 inches tall. Label each box consistent with the paper strips. (A-J or 1-10)
- Using the strips of paper, explain to your child that his job will be to search the house looking for items that are the same length as the strips. You may need to demonstrate for him how to measure an item. Using any item found in your home and any one of the paper strips, show him the proper way to measure the item by placing one end of the strip at one end of the item, pulling the strip down over the item to see if it and the strip are the same size. Explain to him that if the strip is longer or shorter than the item you are measuring that they are not the same size, and he'll need to continue searching for something.
- As he searches and measures, have him use the chart to record the items he finds that are the same length as that particular strip. He may record the item by drawing a picture of the item or simply writing the name of the item (or he can write both.) Measure using as many strips as he would like and revisit the activity next time using different strips.
The goal of this activity is to build confidence with basic measuring skills before introducing more common tools such as rulers, measuring sticks and tapes with standard units of measurement. He'll be running from room to room searching for the items to measure!
Victoria Hoffman, M.A., is an elementary school teacher, writer and mother from Leonardtown, Maryland. She has taught grades K-5 in both regular and special education classrooms.