Measurement for Kids: How to Compare Weights with a Balance Scale


Are you looking for an activity about measurement for kids? Your kids will enjoy comparing the weight of everyday objects in plastic containers using a bucket balance scale. They will learn the concepts of heavy and light and will have fun sorting the objects by their weight.

Early childhood educators are some of the most resourceful people on the planet.  Who else do you know that collects so many little plastic containers, bottle caps, and random pieces of styrofoam?  This resourcefulness (notice that I don’t call it hoarding) drives my husband nuts.  Well, I was very excited to show him that I found a great use for some of those little plastic containers in my closet.

comparing weights with a balance scale - a fun measurement activity for kids

Here is a simple math activity that you can add to your math center, science center, or STEM center.  Use some everyday objects and a bucket balance scale to create a fun activity featuring measurements for kids.  You can show your kids how to use a weighing scale and can even walk your kids through the scientific method as they learn.

The Comparing Weight Activity Printables pictured in this article can be purchased in my store, but you can also do the activity without the printables.


I used some of the empty plastic baby food containers that I found in my supply closet to hold my materials.  I bet you can get some similar containers by asking your kids’ parents, your friends, or the lady who walks a stroller down your street every morning.

If you don’t have baby food containers, you can also use plastic containers that you pick up at the dollar or discount store.  Make sure that they are small enough to fit in the balance’s bucket…. and it is best if the containers are all the same.

prepare the measurement activity  by preparing containers filled with items


This is the fun part!  Find random items around the classroom or house to fill the containers.  Be sure that the containers have a variety of weights so that they are easy for kids to compare.  You can let kids help you with this task.

Here are some ideas:

  • pom-poms
  • buttons
  • googly eyes
  • paper clips
  • toothpicks
  • broken crayons
  • rubber bands
  • beads
  • sequins
  • nails
  • cotton swabs
  • bolts
  • gems
  • yarn
  • pennies
  • bubble wrap
  • pipe cleaners
  • marbles
  • soil
  • sticks
  • rocks
  • sand
  • leaves
  • bugs
  • spiders
  • feathers
  • cotton balls
  • plastic plants or seeds
  • silk flowers

Are you interested in seasonal fillers?  Check out these articles for winter weigh stations, spring weigh station, Easter weigh station, Christmas weigh station.

If you don’t want them to open up the containers and spill the contents, tape or glue the lid on them.  I used a roll of brightly colored, thin, duct tape or washi tape to tape mine shut.

fill a plastic container with buttons for the measurement activity with a balance scale

The Scientific Method

You can easily walk kids through a simplified version of the scientific method as they use this activity.  The scientific method includes these steps:

  1. Make observations
  2. Form questions
  3. Develop a hypothesis or prediction
  4. Experiment to test the hypothesis
  5. Gather and record the results
  6. Share and discuss the results

Make Observations

To begin, let kids experiment with the containers and the balance.  Here are some questions to engage them:

  • What kinds of materials do you see in the containers?
  • Tell me what you notice about them?
  • Describe what happened when you placed a container in the bucket?
  • Why do you think that happened?
  • What happened when you placed a container in the other bucket?
  • Why do you think that happened?
  • What do you think will happen if you switch them? Why?
  • What do you think will happen when you put this one in?
place items in the bucket of a balance scale to compare or measure their weights or mass

Demonstrate that the heavier object will push the arm or beam of the scale down more than the lighter object.  The heavier object will always be lower and the lighter object will be higher.

Form a Question & Develop a Hypothesis

Now, ask kids to select two containers. Before putting them in the buckets, ask them to predict what they think will happen….why?

Experiment or Test the Hypothesis

Let the kids take turns placing their selected containers in the buckets of the scale to see if their predictions were correct. Which container is heavier?….and which one is lighter?

Record, Share, Discuss Results

record the results of the measurement activity using the printable comparison sheets

Kids can record the results of their experiments on paper or in blank books.  If you have the weight comparison printables from my store, kids can also record the results on the weight comparison mat.  Here are a few questions for discussion:

  • Were you surprised by the results?  Why?
  • Do you think you will get the same results if you weigh them tomorrow?
  • What happens if you put the containers in different buckets on the scale?
  • Do you think the lighter item is heavier than another container on the table?

Additional Activity Ideas

When kids understand the concept of heavier and lighter you can ask them to place the containers in order by weight.  Start them out with just a few and then challenge them to compare a larger quantity of containers.

balance or bucket scale with containers lined up from lightest to heaviest - a fun measurement activity for kids

Additional Ideas

  • Send an empty container home with each child and ask them to fill them up with items from home.
  • Use seasonal or thematic items to fill the containers.
  • Use leak-proof containers filled with liquid.  Fill with different amounts of the same liquid to talk about volume or fill with an equal amount of different liquids to talk about density.

I hope that you enjoy measuring weights with your kids.  Now go dig those little plastic containers out of your closet and start filling them up.  I would love to hear what kinds of fillers

Purchase the Comparing Weights Printables

To purchase the Comparing Weight printables pictured in this article, and to check out the seasonal editions, click on the images below.

comparing weight activity bundle for all seasons

Below are some items from Amazon that can be used for the activities mentioned in this article. The links below are affiliate links. If you happen to purchase something from a link, there will be no additional cost to you, but a small portion of your purchase will be used towards the cost of maintaining this website.