How To Help Kids Effectively Use Money In Real Life Situations

Do you sometimes wonder if teaching about money is important any more? Do you think children need to know how to use coins and other currency? These questions and many others often start to surface nowadays.
Handling money and using it to pay for things is becoming less common now with so many of our transactions being done online or with debit machines and plastic. This doesn't mean that teaching about money is becoming less important. This means learning about money and practicing how to use it is more necessary if children are to be able to handle money situations in the real world.
​It is sad to see that many adults can't handle money correctly anymore. They rely on the machines to tell them how much they need to pay, and how much change to give. They struggle to count out money to make purchases.

​Standing in line at the local fast food place the other day, I watched the worker struggle to make change correctly and call her manager to help. I could see that the customer was getting frustrated. Unfortunately, this is going to become even more common if we don't teach our students how to count money and correctly make change.
When it comes to teaching kids about money, there are a few key things to focus on. Identifying coins, counting money, and making change, are essential skills that kids need to learn. Here are some tips to help.

Identifying coins

​Identifying coins is key to being able to handle money. After all, those quarters don't look anything like pennies! Do lots of activities that involve matching coins. You could do memory games, bingo, I Have, Who Has? games or any games that make coin recognition automatic. It is also necessary to recognize how money is written so that kids can recognize price tags and costs of different things.

Counting coins

​Counting coins is another skill that is important. Play money can be used for this, or real coins if you have access to enough of them.
1. Practice counting coins of equal value so that it helps with using the coins later. Count by ones with pennies, by fives with nickels, by tens with dimes, and by twenty-fives with quarters.
2. Practice making dollars with the coins. How many of each coin is needed to make a dollar?
3. Practice counting coins of different values and seeing what they total up to.

Making change

Making change is a difficult skill for kids to master. There are a few other skills or steps needed first. It requires being very familiar with coin values and different coin combinations that make the same value.

Activities that help with creating money amounts using different coin combinations and trading of coins to make similar amounts is a good first step.

It is important to be able to add and subtract multiple digit numbers as well so that this skill can be applied to using money.

Counting up is also important. Counting up from the amount paid until it matches money given is one way of making change.
​In Canada, we no longer have pennies, so it is necessary to also round up or down when paying with cash. Machines have been adjusted to help with providing the correct change, but it still requires understanding when to round up or down when paying. Sadly, many people cannot do this.

Connecting to real life situations

Teaching the skills is one thing, but providing opportunities for kids to see its use in the real world is necessary so they can make the connections that will help them to internalize them.

​​​If you give a child a handful of coins or bills, they often don't really understand the value of what they are holding. A cheque in a birthday card means even less to them. I remember watching as my grandchildren opened cards received from uncles or others and they didn't even look at the paper cheque that was inside. They just handed it over to their parents. Although in some way they realized it was money, they didn't understand its value or use.

The more we give them practice handling and using money the more we will prepare them for how to use it and the better prepared they will be to understand its value and how to use it wisely in their everyday lives.

​This could involve setting up a store in your classroom, pretending to be at a restaurant, or even setting up mock debit machines and debit cards for kids to use.

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By giving them hands-on experience with money, they'll be better prepared to understand its value and how to use it wisely in their everyday lives.

Resources to help

I had the opportunity to do a simplified version of parts of the entrepreneur study with my Grade 3 class one year. We were learning about money and it became a unit of money lessons that were created with my class. We also made and sold items for a spring fundraiser and used the money to pay for a bus trip up island to meet up with another class in a different town. Talk about making it a real life experience! You can find out more about this here.
Here are some resources that could help with practicing money skills. American and Canadian versions are available.
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