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Teaching Kids How to Count Money in Fun and Easy Ways

Michele Meleen
Mom counting coins with her daughter

Have fun teaching kids to count money whether you're counting coins with beginners or making change with older kids. Learning to count coins and dollar bills can be challenging, but easy methods and exciting counting money activities can make it enjoyable for everyone.

Creative Methods for Teaching Money Counting Skills

Counting money lesson plans for young children, special education students, and ESL students all start with the basics and build off each other. Keep in mind the child's prior knowledge and math abilities when tailoring money counting lessons to their needs.

  • Toddlers and preschoolers can use the different shapes and colors of coins to identify them.
  • Beginners, like kindergarteners, can identify the names of coins and match those to their values.
  • Kids in 1st and 2nd grade can count out change and create specified amounts using a variety of money types.
Boy Stacking Coins On Table

Money Matching

Each type of coin is a slightly different size from all the others. Teach kids how to identify coins by their size using a simple tracing activity.

  • Trace each coin a few times on the same piece of paper and have the child put real coins on the outlines that match them.
  • Create a picture by tracing different coins to make up the recognizable image, then have kids put real coins in the correct spots to finish the picture.
  • Set up a standard game of memory with playing cards, only hide coins under each card and match the coins instead of the cards.

Coin Patterns

Create patterns out of coins that show how each coin adds up to the next. Once you've created a pattern, ask younger kids to copy your pattern, then discuss why it's a pattern. For older kids, you can leave several coins out of the pattern and ask them to fill in the blanks. For example, if you put down five pennies in a row then one nickel then an empty space and a dime, kids would need to add a nickel to the empty space. The pattern is that five pennies equal a nickel, then two nickels equal one dime.

Money Counters

As kids start to learn basic addition and subtraction, use coins as counters instead of things like base ten blocks or individual counters. Pennies count as ones and dimes count as tens for starters. You can also use dimes as ones and $1 bills as tens for advanced kids who understand that a dime is worth 10 cents, but one dime is one-tenth of a dollar.

Boy looking at money

Money Critters

Making money critters feels like a creative art project, but it will help kids start to understand how coins relate to each other. Give kids free rein to design any type of creature on a blank piece of paper using only coins and bills. You can also illustrate facts about each coin by creating your own images to show kids. For example, you might create one penny pig by making the shape of a pig face out of pennies. There's only one pig, and a penny is worth one cent. If you did a nickel image, you might make five nickel nits.

Build Dollars With Coins

Kids love building towers and bridges, so let them do it with money in a meaningful way. Once kids understand the basic amount each coin is worth, they can start building coin towers that support a dollar bill. Give the child a variety of coins and ask them to build a dollar bridge or tower using different coin combinations. The only rule is that the coins must add up to the bill amount, like $1 or $5, and support the dollar bill for ten seconds.

  • Hold up a $5 bill by making four separate towers, each must be all one coin type and add up to $1.25.
  • Make a $1 bridge using only four quarters.
  • Use any combination of coins to hold up a $1 bill.

Replace Board Game Money With Real Money

Replace the fake money in your favorite board games with real money. Before you panic, you don't have to be a billionaire to do this. Use any board game made for kids that features money such as Monopoly Junior or Life Junior. Convert the fake game money into real coin and small dollar bill amounts. Change Monopoly $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 to pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, 50-cent pieces, and dollar coins or $1 bills.

Simple Ways to Teach Counting Money

When it comes to counting money, practice makes perfect. The best way to teach counting money and make it fun is to incorporate it into everyday activities and extra special activities.

  • Buy a kids wallet to teach money management. Make sure your child's birthday money or other money they can have is in the wallet and encourage them to use it at stores.
  • On road trips, ask your kids to find the correct change to pay at the upcoming toll booth.
  • Print off free money worksheets for children and modify them in fun ways like allowing kids to use candy strings or strands of play dough to match a coin and its name.
  • Play fun money games for kids that incorporate money counting.
  • Practice counting as you put money into a piggy bank and keep a record of how much goes in or out.
Young girl counts money made from lemonade stand

Have Fun With Money

While using printable play money can be more fun for kids using their imaginations, it's best to use real money when teaching a child to count money. Kids will have an easier time understanding real money when they're familiar with how it looks and feels, plus kids feel more grown-up when they get to handle real money. With a little creativity, money can be fun for kids and adults.

Teaching Kids How to Count Money in Fun and Easy Ways