Exploring Measurement at a Cafe

My daughter had so much fun exploring numbers and measurement at a cafe recently. Learning is more fun in an unusual setting!ย Plaful preschooler math - exploring measurement at a cafe

This is a cute idea that I stumbled upon quite by accident.

The three of us (my husband, my youngest daughter Bee, and I) were heading out to a cafe for lunch, and as we walked out the door, I spied the measuring tape out of the corner of my eye. Bee has been showing a fascination for maths lately, so I popped the measuring tape into my bag, thinking she might like to play with it over lunch. Turns out, it was a winner!


Exploring Measurement at a Cafe

What you need:

  • measuring tape
  • random things to measure
  • keen preschooler


Suitable for

This is a fun unstructured explorative maths / science activity that I think most preschoolers and kindergarteners would enjoy. Bee was 3.5 years old when we did this activity. She happens to be fascinated with numbers and counting, but kids don’t necessarily need to be able to read numbers to enjoy this activity – just understanding the concept of a measuring device, and exploring this new tool in a different environment, is fun in itself. Older kids can see that the measuring tape is like a numberline, and how you can skip count by tens (which on our measuring tape are highlighted in red) and then count on by ones to work out the length of different objects.

While we were waiting for our food to arrive, I showed my daughter the measuring tape. She took to it immediately! She’d probably seen it a few times around the house, but has never had the opportunity to explore it properly before.

Straight away she was fascinated with how the tape comes out and retracts. She could read the numbers, and see that they were in sequence. (She can count and recognise most numbers to 12 by now, and is starting to recognise teens.)

We talked about how the measuring tape actually starts at zero (even though that part is covered up with the metal tab on the end), and that you can use it to measure how long something is, by seeing what number it reaches when you hold the tape against it. We talked about what a centimetre is (our unit of measurement in Australia), and how the plate was 23cm wide, as this is what number it reached on the tape.

How wide is a plateShe wanted to measure everything! She measured the length (height?) of the knives and forks, the height of the table, the length of Daddy’s arm.

How long is a fork

How high is the table

Measuring Daddy's arm

She would have kept going, except that our meal arrived. (The food was divine, might I add. Unsponsored shout out for Sotto on West at North Sydney, if you are ever in the area!)

I have to admit I felt part weird and part proud having the only child in the restaurant who is measuring everything with a tape measure. I caught a few encouraging smirks from the other diners. Geek is the new cool!

Maybe we’ll measure the playground next time, or the check out aisle? Exploring something in a different setting is always fun!

Exploring measurement at a cafe - fun math for preschoolers

And in case you’re wondering why this math activity is on a science blog? Well, in all fairness, measuring things out in the real world is a little bit science-y, don’t you think? And also, I’ve decided that this isn’t a pure science blog any more…

You see, I started this blog when my then 4.5 year old eldest daughter showed a strong interest in science. As both my kids have grown (they’re now 6 & 3.5), their interests are expanding to cover all the STEM subjects (STEM being a popular acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), often in a cross curriculum sort of way, so bringing in art & creativity (STEM + Art, or STEAM) as well.

So I’ve decided to broaden the scope of this blog to incorporate all the STEM / STEAM subjects, as and where my kids interests lead us. As I mentioned above, Bee in particular is fascinated with maths right now, and so you might just see a few playful preschooler math type posts in the near future…


  1. That looks fun! I remember my kids being completely fascinated by the measuring tape the first time they saw it too.


    • It gets longer and shorter, and you can measure stuff with it. What’s not to love? Ha! Seriously though, my kids seem to love playing with anything that’s ‘real’.

  2. Kelly

    That’s a great idea for a cafe! My kids love using the tape measure too ๐Ÿ™‚


    • I was surprised at how captivated she was. She found so many things to measure. I think she was almost disappointed that the food didn’t take longer, lol. ๐Ÿ™‚


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