5.2.3  Weight

A weighing sling (spring balance), also called the ‘Salter Scale’ is used for measuring the weight of children under two years old, to the nearest 0.1 kg. In adults and children over two years a beam balance is used and the measurement is also to the nearest 0.1 kg. In both cases a digital electronic scale can be used if you have one available. Do not forget to re-adjust the scale to zero before each weighing. You also need to check whether your scale is measuring correctly by weighing an object of known weight.


In Figure 5.3 you can see the procedures for weighing a child under two years old using a Salter Scale. The photo in Figure 5.4 shows a small boy being weighted using the scale.

Measuring child’s weight using the Salter Scale
Figure 5.3  Measuring child’s weight using the Salter Scale. (Source: UNICEF, 1986, How to weigh and measure children: assessing the nutrition status of young children)
Weighing a child using a harness and spring balance
Figure 5.4  Weighing a child using a harness and spring balance. (Photo: UNICEF Ethiopia / Indrias Getachew)
  1. Adjust the pointer of the scale to zero level.
  2. Take off the child’s heavy clothes and shoes.
  3. Hold the child’s legs through the leg holes (arrow 1).
  4. Hold the child’s feet (arrow 2).
  5. Hang the child on the Salter Scale (arrow 3).
  6. Read the scale at eye level to the nearest 0.1 kg (arrow 5).
  7. Remove the child slowly and safely.
5  Improvised way of measuring weight of the child using salter scale
Figure 5.5  Improvised way of measuring weight of the child using salter scale. (Source: UNICEF Ethiopia / Indrias Getachew)

Sometimes you will have to improvise. For example in the field set up, it is difficult to measure very young children who cannot sit by themselves using the weighing pant attached to the scale. In addition, some children panic during the measurement and urinate, making the pant dirty. Therefore, mothers or caregivers may not be happy to let their children be measured in such a manner. The weighing scale with the pant can be improvised by using a plastic washing-basin which is attached to the Salter Scale and adjusting the reading to zero. You need to ensure the basin is as close to the ground as possible in case the child falls out, and to make the child feel secure during weighing. If the basin is dirty, then you need to clean it with a disinfectant. This is a much more comfortable and reassuring weighing method for the child and you can use it for ill children much more easily than the approaches described above.

  • How do you know whether your weight measuring scale is correct?

  • You can check the accuracy of the scale you’re using by measuring an object of known weight.

5.2.4  Head circumference