There are few things that affect our lives on a daily basis like money does. Children mimic the financial transactions of daily life in their play by pretending to shop and sell when they dramatize a grocery store, clothing shop, or another market of interest. Sometimes it’s just fun for children to tinker with the toy cash register. All of these instances make teachable money moments easy to come by. Take advantage of children’s natural interest in how money works by staying attuned to their play and with these helpful suggestions.
Play with money (pretend money, that is!)
- Make homemade puzzles. Do a search for photos of bills and coins. Enlarge a few images, print them, mount them on cardboard, and cut them into several pieces to create puzzles. Offer clues, as necessary, to support children’s completion of the puzzles, e.g., “Can you find the rest of George Washington’s head?”
- Invite children to sort currency (real or pretend) in a number of ways. As they work, talk about the similarities and differences of the bills and coins. (Use your judgment when offering coins to children – they are a choking hazard. Practice counting money in different ways.)
- Ask for a specific number of bills or coins. Help children count them out. Talk about the value of each coin or bill and how they exchange with other kinds of money, e.g., a nickel is worth five pennies.
- Toss five pennies onto a table. Count the number of heads and tails. You can do this with a variety of coins and as a transition tool.
- Visit uscurrency.gov/denominations to view the different denominations of real paper bills interactively.
Use money (for real!)
- Have children choose and pay for small items on a shopping trip. This will help them understand that money can only buy so much, and that we have to make choices about what we want/need.
- Donate money or buy items to share to teach children that generosity and giving is an important aspect of managing money.
- Children must understand that money is valuable and must be kept in a safe place. Explain where money is to be stored at home (piggy bank or similar) and why money might be taken to a bank for safe keeping until we need it.
Read and discuss books about money
Always preview books to ensure they align with the needs and values of your group.
- A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban
- Lemonade in Winter by Emily Jenkins
- Bunny Money by Stephen Krensky
- Curious George Saves His Pennies by Margret & H. A. Rey
- A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams