Use Coin-Based Games to Teach Money Skills

Coins are a great way not only to teach children about the value of money, but also to teach a number of valuable mathematical concepts, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. You can use regular coins, or, if you are concerned about coins going into little mouths, you can make your own coins out of cardboard, writing the values on them clearly for early readers. If you are using real coins, make sure your players know ahead of time that they will not be keeping the money!

Kids learn best when they think they are playing a game. By turning coin counting and math exercises into fun games that the whole family can play, kids will learn valuable information about money management without even realizing it.

Money Toss

Children stacking coins
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 This variation of old fashioned penny pitching has children tossing mixed coins into a bowl. Those that stay in the bowl become part of the winner's "stash," while those that land outside the bowl go to the other player. At the end of the game (you can set the time based on your kids' age and patience level), kids must count up their winnings to see who actually has the most. An important lesson: sometimes the largest number of coins does not add up to the greatest amount of money!

Dollars and Dice

This game requires real or cardboard coins and it is appropriate for kids who can add. The goal of the game is to collect the correct number of coins to create a dollar. Players take coins based on the roll of the die. The numbers on the die correlate to the coin values as follows:

  • 1 — Penny
  • 2 — Nickel
  • 3 — Dime
  • 4 — Quarter
  • 5 — Any coin
  • 6 — Lose turn

Players take turns rolling and adding coins. The winner is the first player to reach exactly one dollar. If taking a coin would put the player over a dollar, the player loses the turn. Once the kids master the game, you can change final amount to odd amounts, like $2.17.

Money Matching

The difficulty of this game can be varied depending on the child's needs. For young children who are learning to count but are not adding yet, keeping values small and just using pennies will be effective. Older children who can add can use higher values and all the coins. Create a set of cards with different values. For younger children, use values up to 10 cents, and for older kids create values up to a dollar. Players take turns drawing cards and then use coins to create the values on the card. There are typically no winners in this game, but perhaps you can provide a small reward like a sticker every time a player gets the right answer if your children will enjoy it more.

Hide and Seek

This game is also modifiable depending on children's ages and counting levels. Parents hide coins, real or pretend, around the house. Children are then set loose to find as many coins as they can. Pennies can be used for younger children and the rest of the coins can be added in for older kids. When all the coins have been found, players count up their totals. The player will the highest total is the winner.

Kids will immediately want to take a turn hiding the coins; just make sure you are able to find them all!

Shopping Center

This game is good for younger kids who are learning to count. Gather a number of toys and place "price tags" on them, keeping them countable in pennies. Have the children identify the price and count out the number of coins they need to "buy" it. Make sure players know they aren't playing for keeps! Mix and match the items and give kids plenty of pennies so they can figure out the best way to divide up their pennies and spend them.

Kids love to play money games, and it's a great way to help them learn while having fun.

Real Coins or Cardboard?

There's nothing like real coins, and it can be very satisfying to "earn" real money. But if you're playing with a large group, you might want to create your own cardboard coins. Here's how! Using thin cardboard, like the kind found in cereal boxes, cut out large round shapes in four different sizes. Mark them clearly with a black permanent marker, with the numbers 1, 5, 10 and 25. For younger children, using simple coins with a value of 1 can help them nail down concepts without making it confusing. Making the penny coin a different color is also helpful when you create the coins. Once the kids get a little older you can add the cents sign to the coins.