Last spring, I put together a math activity box designed to encourage exploration of weights and measures. It was supposed to be for the middle young gent, and I intended to switch themes and materials by summer, but all three fine young gents still spend time with these activities so the Weights and Measures box is here to stay, for a while longer at least. It doesn't hurt that it's got materials that seem to appeal to a wide range of ages, particularly the rice and flax, the scale, the measuring tapes, and the counting bears.
This is a great box to pull out for preschool gent because unlike the Flying Paper box, the activities don't require any fine motor dexterity, so he's able to play with the materials independently. Like the Flying Paper box, we've got some ideas and materials for structured activity, and the materials can be explored independently as well.
Today we pulled it out and three-year-old gent happily occupied himself with rice, cups, spoons and the balance scale for nearly an hour, then his kindergarten brother took a turn. Two weeks ago we all played a measuring game which involved jumping on a long piece of paper, then measuring the jump using crayons, counting bears, cuisenaire rods, hands, feet, books and whatever else we could find. "Dad, I jumped twenty-five stickers!" shouted kindergarten gent later that afternoon.
The activity pictured above asks the question "How many _____ equals 1/2 cup of rice?" We put 1/2 cup rice in one side of the balance scale, then filled the other side of the scale with blocks or cars or markers until it balanced. Great fun!
Make a Science Activity Box: Weights and Measures
A plastic tote or very large shoebox to hold materials
Paper (We used paper from the recycle bin.)
Measuring tapes and rulers
A compass (the math kind, not the geography kind)
Rice, beans or flax
Measuring cups, measuring spoons, and a variety of small container
A balance scale (or the materials to make one)
Old watch or clock
Other supplies will depend on the specific activities you choose. Check out Mudpies to Magnets(Robert A. Williams, Robert E. Rockwell, and Elizabeth Sherwood) and More Mudpies to Magnets(Elizabeth A. Sherwood, Robert A. Williams, and Robert E. Rockwell) or another preschool math/science book from the library, borrow one from a friend, buy one or two to keep on the shelf, or search the internet for activity ideas. I print or photocopy an activity page, place the items in a large Ziploc bag or a folder, and staple the page to the bag. Instant experiment!
Our Weights and Measures activity box included these activities:
Measuring Spoons, from Family Math for Young Children: Comparing (Equals Series), p. 68-69. A measuring, counting and estimating game played with rice, cups, spoons and dice.
Beans in a Jar, from Mudpies to Magnets, p. 85. Sort beans and layer them in a small jar, then draw a picture. Sorting, graphing and art.
Look How Far I Can Jump!, from More Mudpies to Magnets, p. 183. Measure length and distance by jumping onto a long piece of paper then measuring the distance with stickers, blocks, markers, hands and whatever else you can find to measure with. Don't forget to use the measuring tape! The fine young gents have really enjoyed this activity. Extend the activity by using different items to measure your child's height, the table, or the room.
How Many Equals Equal?, More Mudpies to Magnets, p. 191. The activity pictured above, another favorite, especially with kindergarten gent.
Play with thermometers and water of different temperatures.
Measure a piece of string as long as your arm or your leg or your whole self. How many things can you find around the house that are the same length? Is the table/chair/book longer, shorter, or the same?
For more measurement fun:
Measurement Resources, Elementary School Lessons & Materials for Teachers
Mathematics and Children's Literature, from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics site, Illuminations
How to Plan a Preschool Math and Science Center (or activity box!)
The Path to Math: Measurement with Young Children