Units of Measurement Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Josh Corbat

Josh has taught Earth Science and Physical Science at the High School level and holds a Master of Education degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Have you ever used a ruler? Or stepped on a scale to see your weight? If so, you have measured something before! This lesson will talk about units of measurement and give the most common units for each measurement system we use.

What is a Unit of Measurement?

When you measure something, you figure out two things. One is a number telling how big the thing is, and the other is a word that describes the unit of measurement.

A unit of measurement is a system you use to describe how big or small something this. The unit changes depending on what you are measuring. For example, when you step on the bathroom scale to weigh yourself, you figure out that you a certain number of pounds or kilograms. Pounds or kilograms are the units of measurement. But why do you have two options? The unit you use actually depends on where you live in the world!

Units of Measurement Around the World

Most of the world uses a measurement system called the metric system. A few countries (the United States is one of them) use the Imperial system, which is almost identical to the U.S. standard system. Some of the world (like the United Kingdom) used to use the Imperial system, but have switched to the metric system. Let's see what some common units are in each system.

This map shows all the countries around the world that use the metric system in green. Notice that only a few countries (gray) still use the Imperial system (including the USA).
Metric map

Common Measurements and Their Units

In this section, we'll describe units of measurement and give some common examples. All the lists of examples go from smallest to largest.

Length is one of the most common measurements. Whenever you measure distance in a car, your height, or how long something is on a piece of paper, you are measuring length. In the metric system, length is measured in centimeters, meters, and kilometers. In the Imperial system, it is measured in inches, feet, and miles.

This ruler has both the metric system and the Imperial system. Millimeters and centimeters are on the top, and inches are on the bottom.

Weight is also a pretty common measurement. Anytime you step on a bathroom scale or put vegetables into one of those hanging scales at the grocery store, you are measuring weight. In the metric system, weight is measured in grams and kilograms. In the Imperial system, it is measured in ounces and pounds.

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