Measuring Length in Inches, Feet, and Yards

by Laurie Laurendeau on November 29, 2011

Once your child has had several opportunities to measure items using everyday objects such as paper clips and pencils, and she understands the concept of length, she may be ready to begin measuring using standard measuring tools.

Measuring Tools

Some typical measuring tools that children will use are rulers, tape measures, and yard sticks. Be sure you have a ruler that clearly has the inches marked on them.  I like to use 12-inch rulers, since they are also a foot long.  This helps children make the association between inches and feet.


Begin by measuring larger lengths using yards.  It is easier for younger children to manipulate a large yard stick.  If it’s nice outside, go out and measure the width of your driveway, or the length of your sidewalk.  Be sure your child is placing the yard stick end to end, without spaces in between.  Count the number of yard sticks needed to measure your chosen object, and tell your child that it measures __# of yards, since she is using a yard stick to measure.


Do the same activity as above, only use a foot-long ruler.  See how many things you can measure to the nearest foot.  Some suggestions are your child’s height, the width of a door, the length of a table, and so on.  Be sure to use the words “length”, “width” and “height” as you measure with your child, and explain how they differ.


Show your child the size of an inch.  I like to show children that an inch is about the width of their index finger and their middle finger together.  Try measuring smaller items in inches.  Be sure your child puts the ruler at zero each time.  Some rulers have zero at the very end of the ruler, while others have the zero mark slightly indented from the end of the ruler.  Try measuring a pencil, a paper clip, a brush, etc…

Have fun measuring objects around your house!  Listen as your child uses phrases such as “longer than” and “shorter than” as she measures the world around her.


  • As always, playing math games at home is a great way to reinforce math skills learned in school.
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