How long is an inch? (an introduction to linear measurement)

Looking for an introduction to linear measurement? Try this simple activity at home or in the classroom.
the measured mom - how long is an inch

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Today I introduced my Four to linear measurement.  His sister (5) is familiar with the concept from kindergarten, but I found an activity that would challenge them both.

First I got out a ruler and asked my Four,

“Do you know what this is?”

“A ruler.”

“What number is at the end of it?”


“Do you know what each of these little marks are called?”


“Those are called inches.  When something is this long, we call it an inch.  Today we’re going to go on a hunt for things that are the same size as an inch.”

“Like a speck of dust?”  (This is how he refers to things that are very tiny – smaller than a speck of dust!)

“Well, we’ll try to find things that we can actually pick up.  Let’s get out the box of color tiles.  Each of those is one inch long.

how long is an inch1

Here’s my little girl’s hand modeling a color tile.  These are square inch tiles useful for many things — sorting, counting, measuring, and more. Of course you c0uld use anything that is one inch long as a measuring tool.  We each took a color tile and marched to the playroom, where we began our search for items that were just about an inch in length.

how long is an inch2

This toy mouse  was about one inch long.

how long is an inch3

My daughter drew a picture of the mouse, I labeled it, and we glued it to a paper labeled “One inch long.”

how long is an inch4Here are the other things we found. The kids took turns drawing the pictures.  After we finished this, I told them it was time to hunt for things that were shorter than an inch.  They weren’t sure where to begin until I suggested looking in the pantry.  Suddenly the game became a lot more fun!

how long is an inch peanut

A shelled peanut is shorter than an inch.

how long is an inch5

Here are the results of our “shorter than an inch” search.  After that we had only to find items that were longer than an inch, which did not require using the color tile at all.

how long is an inch6Of course we could have gone on forever with this one, but my Two and One were waking up from their naps.  It was time to bring our measuring adventure to an end.

The kids learned a lot from this simple and interesting activity that required almost no prep work from me.

For many more math activities, click on the image below! 


© 2013 – 2014, Anna Geiger. All rights reserved.


  1. says

    My son is really into measuring tapes, and recently he started playing with rulers. I think this would be a great activity for him. Thanks! Pinning again, and now following you. Have a great Tuesday!

    • annageig says

      Thanks for checking it out, Katie! Tomorrow I’ll post some books for the letter “I.” There are some good books in there to support this concept, too.

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