How Much Does a Dictionary Weigh?

Fun with Estimation.

English: Old Weighing scale

Old Weighing scale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How much do you think a dictionary weighs?

Compared to your grandchild?

After years of cooking, I can usually tell which plastic container will hold a given amount of leftovers.

I can tell how much lettuce will serve four people.

This is estimating, backed up by experience with volumes.

If I’d learned to cook by weighing instead of measuring volume, I could more closely estimate weight.

Your grandchildren can quickly learn to estimate weight and then compare it to the actual weight with a few items around the house.


  • Bathoom scale
  • 4 items to weigh
  • Paper and pencil
  • Graph paper (optional)
  • Prizes (optional)


  • Have your grandchild pick four items to weigh, including one that is heavier than or close in weight to them. I picked: a small dictionary, an unabridged dictionary, an electric toothbrush with its base, a hand truck
  • Have your grandchild estimate the weights by putting the items in order, the lightest to the heaviest, including your grandchild.
  • Have your grandchild write down the items in the order they picked and how much they think each weighs, including their own weight
  • Using a bathroom scale, let your grandchild weigh themselves
  • Have them weigh each item in order and write down its weight next to their estimate
  • If an item does not fit on the scale, they can step on the scale holding the item, then subtract their weight from the total.
  • Compare their estimates with the actual weights.
  • Optional: Rearrange the items according to their actual weights, if necessary.
  • Optional: Decide in advance on prizes for getting the items in the right order by weight and coming within one pound of the actual weight on all four items.
  • Optional: Draw a bar code on the graph paper, with the left side of the graph representing number of pounds and the height of the bars representing the weight of each item.
  • Optional: Pick out four items very close in weight and see if your grandchild can still put them in order them by weight

Sometime during this activity, your scale may come out of alignment.

Show your grandchild how to bring it back to zero when there is nothing on the scale.

Be prepared to be surprised at your weight the next time you step on the scale!

Thank you to for inspiring this activity.

 This article first appeared as a guest post on

Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers


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