Compare Weights: Balance Scale Activities for Preschoolers

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Are you looking for a fun measurement activity for your kids? They will enjoy comparing the weight of everyday objects in plastic containers using a bucket balance scale. Let’s look at some fun and easy balance scale activities for preschoolers. 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 I found a great use for some of those little plastic containers in my closet.

An image of plastic containers filled with rubber bands and buttons. 
 The containers are in the buckets of a kids balance scale for a comparing weights activity - a fun balance scale activities for preschoolers

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 in a fun way.

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

The Balance Scale

I used a simple balance scale or bucket scale by Learning Resources. While this scale is a great piece to include in your science center, you can also make a DIY balance with a dowel and a piece of wood, from a cardboard box lid and a toilet paper tube, or you can make a simple homemade balance scale by hanging paper cups or sturdy paper plates from a coat hanger.

Making a DIY balance is also a great way to study physical science concepts and simple machines with younger kids.

Containers

I used some of the empty plastic baby food containers that I found in my supply closet to hold different objects and 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.

small plastic containers filled with googly eyes, apple mini erasers, featehers, pennies, and buttons.  The containers will be used for balance scale activities for preschoolers.

Fillers

This is the fun part!  Find random common classroom items around the your room 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.

Are you struggling to think of small items to fill your containers? 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

Want your kids to help you find different materials to measure? You can also send small containers home in paper bags with your kids and ask a family member to help them to fill it up with something from their home.

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 your kiddos 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

I prefer to fill the containers full because it’s easier for kids to get a sense of density and mass when handling them. However, you can encourage kids to work on basic number sense. Rather than filling containers with materials, your kids can count the items and place a quantity of 10 items in a container. For example, they can put 10 cotton balls in one container, 10 buttons in the next, and ten paper clips in another.

The Scientific Method

You can easily walk kids through a simplified version of the scientific method as you do these balance scale activities for preschoolers.  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.  The best tip I have for getting them to make observations is to ask them lots of questions. 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?
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 the 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 compare the weight of the objects and 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 Balance Scale Activities for Preschoolers

When kids understand the concept of heavier and lighter, you can ask them to place the containers in order by weight. To encourage their problem-solving skills, ask them to figure out the best way to test and sort the containers. 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 learning about balance scale activities for preschoolers.  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

Are you ready to try out some comparing weight and measurement activities for preschoolers?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

Purchase on TPT

Do you prefer to shop at Teachers Pay Teachers? You can also purchase the comparing weight activities in my TPT Store.


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.

Related Activities and Ideas

Here are some additional preschool science activity ideas from Early Learning Ideas.

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