Raising financially literate adults can be a challenge in our modern world as everyone zips plastic through slots or uses their smartphone to pay. Kids need to see and handle real money in order to make the connections between the exchange of cash, savings, giving, and investing. Set your kids up for future financial savviness by starting early with practical, fun money activities. Here are 28 ideas to help you get started!
1. Coin Match
Trace around coins and write the amount inside each circle. Give kiddos a bowl of coins to match coins to their traced outlines. They can then practice saying the coin’s name and the amount it’s worth as they remove each of them.
Learn More: Toddler at Play
2. Coin Rubbing
Learn More: U.S. Mint
3. Jelly Bean Money
Learn More: US News
4. Skip Counting
Begin with dimes and then switch to nickels later. Have kids line up the coins in a row first; building more rows to make an array. The rows represent dollars. Point to each coin and skip count aloud across the row to get to $1.
Learn More: The OT Toolbox
5. Coin Caterpillars
Arrange coins staggered up and down on a sheet of paper; either taping them or using sticky tack to hold them in place. Have kids create several more and then practice attaching value to each coin. Lastly, they can count up the total to complete the number sentence.
Learn More: My First Nest Egg
6. “Dollars & Cents” Song
Nothing helps kids learn financial vocabulary like the old Schoolhouse Rocks classic, “Dollars & Cents.” Follow the story of Becky-Sue as she deposits her money to save for band equipment to become a country star. Sing along as a family!
Learn More: SchoolHouse Rocks – Disney
7. Ways to Make…
Create a column chart with money values at the top. Beginning with pennies, kids can fill in the columns with the correct amount of money. Add new coins one by one for them to make different combinations.
Learn More: Hands-on As We Grow
8. Donut Shop
Create a donut shop with plain donuts and different toppings; either in real life or with construction paper. Assign each item a cost and see if kids can add up and pay for the kind of donut they want.
Learn More: Learn in Color
9. Grocery Store Pricing
To learn cost and relationship, set up a grocery store at home. Prepare price-tag sticky notes ahead of time and ask the kids to match the prices to the items to learn the item’s relationship to actual cost.
Learn More: Money Prodigy
10. Money Math Tray
On sentence strips, draw circles around coins to add up to a certain amount. Write that amount at the end of your row. Then, give kids the chance to match the coins needed with the circles to show combinations of coins.
Learn More: No Time for Flashcards
11. Savings with a Clear Jar
For littles, seeing the actual savings happen helps them to understand the concept of money accumulation. Get a clear jar and mark a line on it; telling them when they reach the goal line they can go shopping for a special toy. This reinforces delayed gratification.
Learn More: Fidelity
12. Spend – Save – Give
Once kids master the art of saving, increase their savings plan by adding two more jars. The jars can be labeled “Spend”, “Save”, and “Give.” This teaches kids to divide their money into three categories. Let kids choose how they spend their money and where to donate.
Learn More: Wichita Mom
Pair fine motor skills with financial literacy and counting by having your kiddos roll coins. Either with their own savings or with a family change jar, start with pennies- counting up 50 cents and putting them into each roll. Then, take your learners to the bank and have them exchange them for cash or make a deposit.
Learn More: Carrots Are Orange
14. Make Change
The old “count up to the dollar” trick works in this activity where kids learn to function without electronic adding. Begin with an amount spent and then work with them to count up to the whole dollar. Then, try to make changes with different coins.
Learn More: Bankaroo
Paying kids for jobs that they have done well serves as a realistic economic model. You can choose to give allowance for accomplishing responsibilities like brushing your teeth and tidying your room. Pay them for extra chores such as cleaning baseboards, vacuuming your car, or raking leaves.
Learn More: For Modern Kids
Never underestimate the power of a lemonade stand! Teach kids to earn by writing a simple business plan including cost analysis, price charged, how they will sell, and advertising. You can provide them with the overhead to get started. Then, they can set up shop and get selling!
Learn More: TIAA
17. Savings Goal
If kids repeatedly ask you to buy something for them, it’s time for a savings goal! Use a clear jar to save; mark the amount needed and have kids save until they’ve reached the designated amount. Then, have them complete the transaction themselves at the store.
Learn More: Charles Schwab
18. Pay with Cash
Kids watch everything you do so model using actual money by paying with cash when you can. Too often they think using a credit card means that you don’t have to pay! Show them a model transaction and then role-play at home for transaction etiquette.
Learn More: Child Development Info
19. Let Them Pay
Understanding that an exchange takes place is a difficult concept for kids. To reinforce this lesson, give them a dollar and let them make the exchange with the cashier or use the self-pay option and put their money in the machine; demonstrating the exchange.
Learn More: MoneyGeek
20. Discuss Purchase Choices
Verbalizing how you spend money will assist kids in the process. Let them in on a budget discussion or talk about a big-ticket item and how you must save to be able to buy it. Let them help you shop to find the best deals as well.
Learn More: Annuity
21. Bank Account
Take your child to the bank and help them open their own bank account. Then, when their savings jar is full, go to the bank and have them deposit the money; explaining how the bank saves it for them. This empowers them to manage finances from an early age.
Learn More: Money Crashers
Playing Monopoly teaches kids essential financial concepts that apply to real life. They must decide what to buy within their budget, pay with actual money, and cough up fines for rent and taxes. Plus, they get paid for accomplishing a task!
Learn More: Financial Imagineer
23. Clip Coupons
Let kids help clip coupons each week if you use them. They will learn to recognize the logos of brands you use and work on scissors skills while learning. Then, kids can help sort into categories and help you match items at the store!
Learn More: ESavings Blog
Encourage kids to set up their own restaurant- deciding on menus, shopping lists, and prices that they will charge. Then let them make and serve the food; present you with a receipt and collect the payment.
Learn More: Kerndt Brothers
25. Wants vs. Needs Game
Discuss the difference between a need – something necessary for survival – and a want – something you desire for a variety of reasons. Then, present your learners with two items and have them identify the want and the need; explaining their reasoning.
Learn More: Empowered Parents
26. Yard Sale
Involve kids from start to finish; having them help you sort items into “Keep”, “Donate”, and “Sell” piles. Then, help them price the items- considering what they would pay at a yard sale and discussing depreciation. Finally, put them in charge of selling their own items and counting the profit.
Learn More: Benjamin Talks
27. Coin Riddles
Figuring out how to use multiple coins to pay for items is a complicated process. Create riddles that tell kids how many coins you have and the total amount, and then have them figure out which coins you might have.
Learn More: Education.com
28. Use an App
In this modern world, apps with virtual manipulatives and real money make financial literacy easier for parents and kids. Consider downloading one that includes programs that teach them about allowance, savings, money management, and other financial skills.
Learn More: Wired