Updated: May 15
It was his FAVORITE birthday present.
Bright red with lots of buttons and a cool ‘cha-ching!’ whenever the door opened. He was three and it came from his aunt. A toy cash register to use in all of our different pretend play scenarios. He would carry it around with him to use in the kitchen, the living room, or outside.
He was ready and willing to start learning about the different coins and values even though teaching money to kids isn’t usually taught until much later, in fact first grade in most lists of learning standards.
Like so many other skills and topics, real learning and teaching happens when we enter it through inquiry and are ready to jump on our child’s interest and natural curiosity.
When they ask the inevitable questions of “how” and “why” we need to be ready to meet their interest in age-appropriate, engaging, and meaningful ways. Through experiences that will be memorable and concrete rather than through tedious worksheets or workbooks.
Teaching money to kids can be a really challenging concept, if we rely solely on paper and pencil tasks. It can feel disconnected from anything children know, even foreign or nonsensical to them.
In reality, hands-on activities that teach money are incredibly fun and rewarding, and also the most effective. Connecting the concept of money to the real world and the role it plays in their own life is remarkably powerful and long lasting.
Below we share 5 important learning tips when teaching money to kids and 5 activities or games that go hand-in-hand with these tips. However, this blog merely scratches the surface. If you want a comprehensive math unit for introducing Money and Time, click here to purchase Thoughtful Play Math Unit 8.
If you want a free sample of our activities for TEACHING TIME, here you go: CLICK HERE
This gives you 3 simple & fun activities for introducing time. Start with these and if you want more, head to Thoughtful Play Math Unit 8.
Teaching Money - Tips & Activities
Money Tip 1: As much as possible use real coins when working with money. This allows children to feel and closely observe the differences between coins. Only introduce play money once children can easily identify the different coins.
There is so much to observe when working with coins! They are fascinating to play with and look at closely. Open up the piggy bank or a coin jar and let your child play with the coins inside. Get down with them and play along, noticing features or differences as you do so. Look at the front and the back of coins. Sort them into piles. Feel them in your hands and make note of the different sizes of coins. Engage with them and introduce the names of the coins as you play. “Wow! What a neat quarter you found! Oh, I like that penny!” Encourage your child to touch, feel, and explore the coins in lots of different ways, and as much as possible.
Money Teaching Activity: Coin Pattern Making
Let’s use our coins to make patterns!
Invite your child to make a pattern with the coins. Demonstrate, if needed, a simple A/B pattern and name each coin as you use them (penny, nickel, penny, nickel).
Advance to more advanced patterns (quarter, dime, dime, penny, quarter, dime, dime, penny). Focus on naming each coin as they read/share their patterns.
Extend by creating a coin pattern and inviting your child to continue the pattern sequence.
Further extend by making a mistake in the A/B sequence. See if they can find and correct it (e.g., penny, nickel, penny, nickel, dime, nickel).
Money Tip 2: Remember to say the value of the coins as your child names and organizes them. Casually introduce the idea that different coins hold different values.
Just as we encourage not separating letter names from letter sounds, we recommend always associating the value of a coin with the name of the coin. As your child plays and engages with coins through exploration, gently affirm their growing understanding and add-on to their discovery by stating the value of the coin. Here’s how it might sound: “That’s right! You found a nickel! A nickel is worth five cents!” The more exposure to coin names and values through hands-on exploration and physical manipulation, the greater the likelihood of cementing the coin name and value to memory. Repeated practice, play, and engagement is key. Providing the learning behind the play by introducing coin values at the same time as the coin names helps your child learn each coin in its totality.