Family, Money Management

5 Ways To Teach Young Children About Money, Counting, And Making Change

I have two kids (and a third on the way). I’ve recently begun to teach my four-year-old son a little about money. He’s a bright child – and he’s very aware of his surroundings. He likes to ask questions and he’s pretty good about applying what he’s learned in one setting to the questions faced in another.

Kids ages 3 – 5

More or Less Game – I ask my son questions like, “Which is more, 8 or 2?” and “Which is less, 55 or 79?”. He can count to 100 (sometimes he needs a bit of help) and he’s really learning to understand the idea that there are larger and smaller numbers. This simple concept – more or less – can help a small child to understand that different products cost different amounts. The bubble gum costs ‘less’ than the bicycle.

How Many Would It Take Game – I’ll ask my son, who loves Kit-Kat candies, “How many Kit-Kat packs would it take to equal 8 Kit-Kat bars?”. Since the Kit-Kat bars come 4 per pack, the answer is 2. He can use his fingers and learn a little bit about multiplication and division. I also use this technique when measuring water for a recipe. If the recipe calls for 1 cup of water, I’ll use the 1/4 cup measuring cup. Then, I’ll ask my son to count as I pour the water from the measuring cup to the mixing bowl. This begins the process of learning about fractions.

Help Cook Game – When I use the microwave, my son loves to punch in the numbers. He will punch in, say 35 seconds, and then stand back and countdown the seconds. As he does so, he’s learning how to move from a big number to a small number – simple subtraction. Once in a while, I’ll stop the microwave, with about 3 seconds left, and ask him to figure out how many seconds have already gone by and how many are left. He’s getting really good at finding the answers, especially if the starting time is less than 30 seconds. This simple subtraction concept will help teach him to ‘make change’.

Count By Game – This one is simple. We use pennies, nickels, and dimes – and I teach him to count by ones, fives, and tens. But, even though this one is simple – it teaches him much more than ‘counting by’ skills. He is learning, again, that different coins have different values. He’s learning that a smaller item – like the dime – might actually have more value than a larger item – like the nickel, or even the penny. He’s learning that 2 nickels = 1 dime and that 5 pennies = 1 nickel. All of these lessons, when combined, leave the child with better grasps of several concepts.

Toy Shop – My kids have dozens of toys, dolls, balls, jump ropes, and cars. I’ll grab a handful of dollar bills and some change – and gather ten of their favorite toys – and setup a ‘toy shop’. Each toy will have a price and my son will be given a certain amount of money. He then gets to pretend to buy and sell his toys. I’ll play the game with him, or just leave him to play by himself or with his sister. Right now, he’s not quite ready to grasp all of the concepts need for fluid transactions, but he is learning how to count, how to add, how to subtract, and how to figure out which items cost ‘more’. Plus, he’s learning some basic negotiation skills.

What about you? Do you have some games or techniques that you use to teach your young children about money? At what age do you think parents should start talking to their children about money? Do you wish that your parents had spent more time talking to (not at!) you about money? I’d love to read your comments.

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11 thoughts on “5 Ways To Teach Young Children About Money, Counting, And Making Change

  1. It may be a little early for your children, but when they are old enough, and if they have the interest (or you can cultivate the interest without forcing them), encourgae/help them to start a business. A lemonade stand, a market stall, anything.

    My 12 y.o. son started his own eBay business – all his own doing and work … for him it’s a fun hobby that generates $30 profit a week: he’s teaching himself about money and multiplying his pocket money by 5!

  2. These are all great ideas!

    I wish my parents had taught me more about money when I was a child. I had a natural interest, so I am doing well financially, but some of my siblings aren’t doing as well.

    One thing my parents did that really left a good impression on me was when they were close to having their mortgage paid off. About a year before, my mom put the balance of the mortgage on a piece of construction paper (I’m pretty sure it was green, that’s how much of an impression it left!). She hung it on a cupboard in the kitchen and every month, she’d subtract how much they paid that month. It obviously made her very excited to watch the balance go down and it left a great impression on me about the desire to be debt-free.

  3. Thanks for these great ideas! I’m going to be sure to use them with my kids (ages 9 to 7mos), though I may have to rework them a bit to scale them up.

    We already do quite a bit of counting (we homeschool) but I do like the ideas of counting with the coins and setting up a toy shop. (I’m hoping to set up a toy dumpster sometime, too 😉

  4. I started giving my daughter an allowance at about age 4. She has 5 chores to do and when she has done each chore five times she gets five dollars. We keep a chart of the chores she does. She loves earning money.

  5. @Mom – How often do you give the allowance? Is it 5 chores, every day, for a week? How does the system work…
    NCN

  6. She has five different chores she she does once a day.
    -unload the dishwasher
    -make her bed
    -clean her room (not to perfection, but make an effort)
    -set the table
    -pick up the toys in the living room

    If she were to do them each once a day she would earn $5.00 a week. (she goes to her dad’s house on the weekends)

    In reality she earns about $10 a month because it is a rare day that she actually does all her chores.

  7. I love all those ideas, especially the toy shop one. My oldest son is three, and so far I’ve just started to try and impress on him the fact that things cost money, and it also costs money to do things sometimes. He’s starting to show an interest in the whole thing and often asks how much things cost.

  8. Thanks for a great post. I will definitely be adding the “Help Cook Game” into our life. I love how all of your ideas teach, give them awesome learning time with their parents and are fun for all too. I firmly believe that my kids will remember the time I spent with them, rather than what I bought for them.

  9. I did the Toy Shop game with my children, a boy age 6 and a girl age 3. They loved it. Every Saturday morning she especially wants to “play store”, which is how I call it.

    I have each bring 5 things from their room and lay it out on a couch, each having their own store (couch).

    The first time I was the store owner and they purchased things from me. We would talk about why they were buying something (i.e. a gift for someone) and discussed why one thing cost much more than another (even if it was smaller, etc.). At the end of each making a complete transaction (down to bagging their things and the cashier putting away their money), we compared how much they spent and how much they have saved for later. You should have seen their faces. Having more money left over meant much more to them than having more (or bigger) stuff in their hands. Loved that!

    Now they play store owner and I just watch/interact.

  10. Not sure what happened to my previous reply…if it needs to be approved, then please don’t post this one. 🙂

    I did the Toy Shop game with my children, a boy age 6 and a girl age 3. They loved it. Every Saturday morning she especially wants to “play store”, which is how I call it.

    I have each bring 5 things from their room and lay it out on a couch, each having their own store (couch).

    The first time I was the store owner and they purchased things from me. We would talk about why they were buying something (i.e. a gift for someone) and discussed why one thing cost much more than another (even if it was smaller, etc.). At the end of each making a complete transaction (down to bagging their things and the cashier putting away their money), we compared how much they spent and how much they have saved for later. You should have seen their faces. Having more money left over meant much more to them than having more (or bigger) stuff in their hands. Loved that!

    Now they play store owner and I just watch/interact.

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