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Teach Your Child How to Use a Ruler

Every child likes to know how long or how high something is! Measuring, comparing and tracing growth fascinating activities for children. One of a baby’s first experiences is to be measured for length!

Teaching your child to use a ruler can be done as a matter of course around the home or out in nature. However, knowing the language of measuring can be a complicated thing, as types of measures, units and rulers, or rules, vary considerably around the globe.

Becoming proficient in basic life skills is important to children of all ages. Their developmental stage or readiness will dictate what and how you teach them. Having the simple tools you need handy will make learning to use a ruler fun and easy!


Humans have a natural inclination to compare and contrast in measurable terms. Kids add words indicating size early on. “I want the big one! Eor “That’s too heavy for me.”

Children often use non-standard measures when first measuring. They might say, “It’s higher than I am. EIt’s as wide as two of my hands. EFirst units of measure were not much different. The term “foot Efor example came from the length of a ruler’s foot!

As awareness expands, older preschoolers will show interest in specific units of measure. When getting their checkup with the doctor, let them examine the lines on the ruler and see where the top of their head comes. This will demonstrate a standard measure of length that is personal to them. Hanging up a height chart at home and marking it every few months will delight your child as they “inch Eup!

Fitting your youngster for a costume? Let them hold the tape measure while you record their dimensions. Deciding if wrapping paper is long enough? Let them help. Is Dad putting tiles down in the kitchen? They can help!

Main points to address:

  • Preschoolers use comparing words and non-standard measures.
  • Let them assist when using a rule.

Grades K-3rd

Primary school children can begin to use standard measures around second grade. Supplying a flexible plastic or simple wooden 12 inch ruler, metric or English, whichever is used where you live, will get your youngster measuring all over the house!

Show your child how to line the zero up with the left hand edge of the object being measured. Go to the nearest inch at first, saying, “That’s about 5 inches! EThere is no need to be exact at first.

It’s fun to use the ruler to measure small toys, stones from the garden, even fingers and toes! After some practice, you can point out the smaller markings between the numbers. Measuring to the nearest half or quarter inch will naturally follow as objects of similar but not exact lengths are compared and measured.

There are several quality websites that may illustrate in an interactive format how to measure with a ruler. You may want to try one of these to reinforce what your child has already learned.

Children this age are also able to measure with a yard or meter stick, a carpenter’s tape, or dressmaker’s tape measure and should start to know equivalent measures, such as 1 meter is 100 centimeters.

Providing practice with a sewing, woodworking or other craft project would be timely. Planting a garden, building a tree house or putting up a bird feeder are all activities that will give your child practice using a rule.

Using a ruler is one of those skills essential to many human activities. Knowing how to use a ruler correctly can be a source of pride and self-confidence.

Main points to address:

  • Use a simple wooden or flexible plastic ruler with clear markings.
  • Make sure the zero is lined up with the left-hand edge of the object being measured.
  • Start with nearest inch, then half-inch, then quarter inch. (Centimeters and millimeters are somewhat simpler. Start with nearest centimeter, then count millimeters.)
  • Have your child use their new skill on a craft project.

Resources that can help you in your venture include:

Posted in Education.

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