This post includes ideas for teaching money and 5 FREE money activities to get you started!
When to Start Teaching Money
If you are using a math curriculum, you might notice something missing in the younger grades – money. Not the kind you spent on the curriculum – I’m sure there was plenty of that!
You might see a brief mention of money early on – learning coin names and values, for instance. But counting and using money is usually saved until late 2nd or 3rd grade in many math curricula.
Why is that? The focus early on is learning how to count, add, and subtract. Money is secondary because your child needs those skills to interact with money.
Or do they?
I disagree with the standard way that money is taught. Money is such an interesting subject for your little ones. They see it coming and going. They hear you talk about how much things cost. They see it being tallied at the grocery store. Kids are interacting with money all the time.
I noticed my son was interested in money even before we began kindergarten. Always asking questions about it. How much is this? What is that card? Who is that green man on the paper?
Do your kids ask these kinds of questions, too? Let’s use this curiosity to spark their interest in the primary-grades math skills! Flip the script on the standard curriculum and let your child’s interests guide you.
When should you start teaching money? As soon as your child shows an interest!
Introducing the Concept of Money
We took a gentle approach to introducing math concepts in kindergarten and into first grade. My son has always rejected worksheets, so I used a mix of hands-on, games, and literature to inspire him.
If your child is showing an interest in learning about money early on, start by talking about it! Your little one will pick up a lot by watching you use money on a daily basis.
When you are ready to introduce more money concepts, there are a few easy ways that you can begin for free:
- Use real bills and coins
- Hit the math section of your library
- Involve your child with your day-to-day budgeting and spending
- Open a bank account for your child
- Encourage your child to earn money
Let’s talk about how these math activities might look in your homeschool.
1. Teaching with Real Money
It’s smart to begin with a hands-on approach, but you don’t need to invest in play money sets or pretend piggy banks. My kids have learned the most from being able to interact with actual bills and coins.
We started out by sorting pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters all together by type. Once they knew exactly what each of them were by heart, they then counted the coins. Once they understood that four quarters equals a dollar, etc. they then traded them in for bills and so on and so forth.
I love that a side-effect of teaching money is teaching independence! My children are capable of paying for their own treats, and even make change, when we are out and about without any hesitancy.
Concepts to teach with coins and bills:
- Coin names
- Coin and bill values
- Sorting coins or bills by type
- Exchanging coins for bills (4 quarters = $1, let’s trade!)
- Adding money
- Making change
- Ordering bills by value
- Using real money to make small purchases
2) Teaching Money with Math Literature
I love using math literature. Reading a story about money being used has helped my children understand the concept of paying, counting, and exchanging money – far beyond adding coins on a worksheet or answering a simple story problem.
If you are looking for a free and easy place to start, I encourage you to check out the math section of your local library. You will find it in the non-fiction section with math literature arranged by concept – which makes it easy to find the money books!
Not sure what to look for? Find a list of our favorite math literature books here!
3) Involve Your Child with Day-to-day Budgeting and Spending
Bring your math lessons into the real world by involving your child in your shopping. Not only will it help your children apply what they are learning about money in a real life manner, it also keeps them nice and busy while we shop. (Win-Win!)
I give each of my kiddos a calculator and ask them to total up our grocery bill as we go. Or, sometimes, I ask them to practice their tally marks and keep track of our total number of items. (When they get older, I may ask them to figure out what our tax will be.) This keeps them learning and engaged and helps me finish up my errands, all at the same time.
A few ideas for teaching money in the world:
- Bring a calculator or pencil and paper along to tally your bill
- Use a grocery circular to estimate your savings
- Start with a budget in mind and comparison shop to find out what you can afford
- Give your child a certain amount to spend and allow them to make the decision on how to spend it
- Practice using bills and coins by allowing your child to pay at the register
- Ask your child to figure out the change due or the tax
4) Open a Savings Account
Most banks allow minors to open their own account to help them become familiar with the basics of banking. With a child savings account, my son has learned about typical fees, interest, minimum daily balances and other banking basics.
There is nothing sweeter than the smile and sense of pride a child feels when opening their first account. It’s fun, makes them feel more “adult” and also teaches them the basics of money management in the banking system.
While you’re at the bank:
- Request a tour of the bank
- Meet a teller
- Fill out a deposit or withdrawal slip
- Check out your interest rates and see if they’ve changed
- Talk to a banker about what type of account your child can open and how it works as they grow older
5) Teaching Money by Earning Money
Although my kids did enjoy learning about money and counting my stash of coins early on, nothing has solidified their understanding and management of money more effectively than allowing them to earn it themselves. They learn the true value of a dollar and a bit of responsibility as well.
A chore checklist complete with potential dollars to be earned, an opportunity to assist with a large task (i.e. cleaning out the garage last weekend) and encouraging older kids to earn some extra cash “babysitting” younger siblings while mom takes a shower, are all ways that my children can earn their own money.
Ways your child might earn money:
- Completing extra chores around the house (I don’t pay them to clean up after themselves – only when they go above and beyond!)
- Completing chores or yard work for friends or neighbors
- Setting up a lemonade or cookie stand in the summer
I hope that helps you get started with teaching money to your little ones! I think you’ll see as they grow that introducing these concepts early will really pay off!
More ideas for teaching money from the Resource Room: