How do I help my child understand money? You’re not the only parent asking this question. Counting and sorting cash and making change can be a difficult task for even the best elementary math students. When coins and money notation are introduced, these abstract concepts can take a while to sink in with your child. The best way to help your child understand money is to give them constant exposure. Wondering where to start? Try one of these fun and low pressure ideas:
Dump your coin jar or your pockets
The best way for your child to learn how to sort, value, and count coins is through hands-on experience. Experience with plastic coins and fake bills can be helpful, but the best learning happens with the real deal. Dump your change jar or pockets on the floor and let your child explore and practice their money skills. Here are a few activities you can encourage:
Sort the coins
Count the pennies, nickels, quarters, or dimes. (This will be a little like skip counting.)
Grab a handful of coins and count them
Count all the coins in the jar (this might be a long term project)
Make a treat run
A super engaging way to get your child invested in learning about money is to let them buy something. Make a treat run to the gas station or ice cream shop as a family and let your child take responsibility for paying for their own treat. Require them to count up the right amount of money to pay, and for older students, encourage them to check the change they were given to make sure that it’s accurate.
Play money based games
Luckily, a competitive game of Monopoly isn’t the only game that can teach your child about money. There are plenty of online and offline games that make practicing these concepts fun and exciting for even the most reluctant student. Here are a few of our favorites:
Monopoly - It’s a classic game the whole family can enjoy- just be sure to get the version with physical cash and not the cards!
Money Match Me - A simple card game where players must match cards with amounts to cards with pictures of collections of coins.
The Game of Life- This well loved game gives students an opportunity to practice their bill counting and change making skills along with other money concepts like budgeting.
Money Bags- This game encourages players to combine coins in different ways to try to collect the most money and win the game.
Break the Bank (computer game) - This is a fun and free online game where your child can practice counting and sorting bills and coins while smashing piggy banks dressed up in costumes.
Counting Money (computer game)- Another fun and free game that helps your child learn to count bills and coins.
Counting Coins (app)- An app with five different games to help your child learn money skills.
Pay cash for extra chores
A great way for your child to get invested in learning about money is to have some of their own. Assign amounts of money to extra chores around the house and pay your child when they choose to do them. To help boost skills, consider giving the amount in a different way each time (ex. 50 cents as two quarters, 50 pennies, 5 dimes, or 10 nickles). When your child wants to buy something with their saved money, they will need to count to make sure they have enough.
Having a lemonade stand or craft booth can help your child practice counting, sorting, and making change. There’s nothing quite as motivating as interacting with others and making your own money in the process. This activity can also give your child an introduction to the concepts of profit, loss, and budgeting.
What are your favorite ways to help your child practice money concepts? We would love to hear in the comments below!