Counting Money:
The First Step
in Learning the Value of Money

Young kids learn to count slowly - and then they seem to be counting everything. You can use this natural cycle to teach counting money skills. There are plenty of fun games and activities that can help so it is enjoyable for everyone.

counting money

Kids may start getting money from the time they are born. When they are three or four years old, they start to understand more about it and look forward to getting money, especially coins, that is theirs. Shiny coins that jingle are great to hold their interest as they learn counting money.

The goal with a child this age is to introduce the four main coins (in the U.S.) and help them understand that the coins have different values. First, teach the kids the names of the coins: penny, nickel, dime and quarter. This will help them understand that each one is different. From there, you can move into talking about how they else the coins are different. Kids this young probably will not understand how much each one is really worth, but they can understand a quarter is worth more than a dime. Counting coins games, play money and coloring sheets work great at this age.

Once kids get to be about five years old, they will be able to understand the values better. They are likely to start seeing money and doing activities related to money in school. They will want to know whether they have enough money to get a gumball or buy a candy bar. These are great opportunites to teach kids how to count money. They are learning math that will apply in real life.

You can practice this at home by putting out a handful of all types of coins and then having the kids assemble the coins to match an amount that you give them. For instance, you might ask them to give you coins totaling $0.95. They could then select 3 quarters and 2 dimes; 1 quarter, 5 dimes and 4 nickels; or some other combination. They will likely be doing similar money games for kids in school.

Once kids understand coins, it is time to move on to paper money. This is a little easier to teach because the numbers are on the face of the bills. The biggest challenge can be getting them to understand that paper bills have more value (and can buy more) than the coins. After getting that down, teaching how to count money builds on what you have already done.

Use counting money games or even better real-life instances to teach kids how combinations of coins and paper bills add up to different totals. Turn requests to buy things into teachable moments by having them tell you how much of each type of coin or bill it will take to cover the cost. (This is also a sneaky way to introduce them to the value of different things that will come in handy as you move to the next stage.)

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