Kids and Money

3 Fun Ways Help Your Preschooler Understand Money

Is preschool too young to start talking to your kid about money? It depends on how you do it and what you cover. You can make learning about money fun by keeping it simple. Build your preschooler's money smarts with these 3 fun and easy ideas!

Your preschooler is ready to start learning simple vocabulary and basic economic lessons- e.g., if you want to buy something you have to pay for it with money. Or, if you work, then you can earn money. Preschoolers are very literal, so the examples and experiences need to be very concrete. 

First, if you haven’t read the article on talking to kids about money, you will want to start there (I will include another link at the end, as well). With your preschoolers, don’t expect too much. We want this to be fun. Little kids learn through play, so our number one goal with these ideas is to make them fun. No worksheets - no memorization and when they’re done, they’re done.

I like to view this as a chance to spend quality time with your kids and let them learn a little about money at the same time.

Idea #1 Hands-on arts and crafts

Let your kid decorate their own piggy bank. You can purchase a paintable piggy bank at dollar or craft stores. They come in different shapes with paints and a little paintbrush. Let your kid go crazy decorating the bank.

If you don’t want to buy a paint-able piggy bank, you can simply use a mason jar or even a well-washed pickle jar. Use glue sticks, construction paper, glitter glue, stickers or anything else that strikes your fancy. Let them decorate it and make it their own. My four year old loved decorating her own construction paper label with her name on it and covering her mason jar with stickers.

While you are decorating, talk to your kid about what the piggy bank is for. Let them know that they can use their piggy bank to save up their money to buy something special. Keep in mind that to a very young child “something special” may well be a stick of gum or a hot wheels car. Honestly, that’s great, it will be easy for them to save up that amount of money.

Idea #2 Sorting and Naming Coins

A lot of kids like to sort things and coins are no different. Lisa Zambito, Director of Education at the Bon View School, reminds parents to really start at the beginning “Teaching money vocabulary would be the first step with 2 and 3 year-olds. Coin, dollar, and money may be new words to them.” Ms. Zambito suggests that, “Four and five year olds could learn the names of quarter, nickel, dime, etc.” She says that some would be able to sort the coins from a big pile and name them, and some may not.

You might start with your child sorting the coins by color and see how it goes. At this age, it is pretty unlikely that kids will be able to remember how much each coin is worth. As they turn five it will be easier for them. I recommend you incorporate some comments about the value of the coin as you help them sort, but there’s no need to focus on it at this age.

Idea #3 Make it a game

Set up a “store” and let your children pretend to buy their toys from you. Dig out some money from their piggy banks and use real coins. My kids liked to do the buying so I pretended to be the shopkeeper. As the shopkeeper, I named the coins for them as we counted them out. They would bring up a toy to the “counter” and ask me how much their teddy bear cost. Let’s say the teddy bear cost $0.10. I would name the price and then help them count out 10 pennies. Be sure to name the coins for them. I would also show them that they could use a dime instead because one dime equals 10 pennies.

OK - let’s be real here- most preschoolers are extremely literal and telling them that 10 pennies equals one dime will be beyond them. They won’t believe you. So don’t expect them to remember that a dime equals 10 cents.

If you ask a preschooler whether they would rather have a nickel or a dime many, will choose the nickel because “it’s bigger.” I like to include a little extra information but keep it light and no matter what, don’t get frustrated. If you're getting frustrated it's time to move on because your kid probably is, too!

Older Kids

Kindergarten-aged children will be able to learn the names of coins and identify their values. So if you are playing this game with a mixed age group, don’t be afraid to change it up a little bit for the older child. Older children may also be able to start answering some simple addition questions. Since this is supposed to be fun and build confidence, keep the questions extremely simple (i.e. where the math adds to less than 10). We need to meet our children where they are developmentally.

These ideas are not about creating a financial genius. Instead they're laying the groundwork--the knowledge, habits and behaviors--to understand and manage money. Most importantly these are some fun ideas for you to do with your kids! How are you teaching your kids about money? Please email me or leave a comment below!

Interested in learning the how to talk about money with your kids? Start with our post "Teaching Kids To Handle Money."

Ready to finally understand money?

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