Activities at Home

Estimating Utensil Lengths

If serving spoons or ladles aren't in your utensil drawer, use other safe kitchen utensils, such as spatulas or rubber scrapers.

What You Need:

  • 2 serving spoons
  • 2 ladles
  • Dry (uncooked) pieces of pasta—all the same length

What You and Your Child Will Do:

In school, your child uses nonstandard units of measure, such as connecting cubes or paper clips, to help understand the notion of measuring length. At home, pieces of dry pasta can serve the same purpose (as long as they are all exactly the same length).

  1. Place a spoon in front of your child and challenge him or her to find about how many pasta pieces long it is. (The child should line up the pasta end to end along the length of the spoon. The pasta may be placed either above or below the spoon, but the first piece must be aligned with the left end of the spoon.)
  2. After the last piece of pasta is positioned, hold one hand at one end of the spoon and the other hand at the other end to suggest the distance to be measured. Encourage your child to describe the length of the spoon as an estimate; for example, “The spoon is about 5 pasta pieces long.” Leave this spoon (and pasta) on the table.

    Spoon with 5 spiral pieces of rigatoni lined up end to end along its depth.

  3. Repeat the measuring of another spoon and then of 2 ladle stalks. Each time have the child give an estimate of the length of the pasta. Then ask questions such as:
    • About how many pasta pieces longer is that spoon than this one?
    • About how many pasta pieces shorter is this spoon than that ladle?
    • About how long are this spoon and that ladle together?