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Play Money: Four Ways to Teach Toddlers about Money through Play

One day recently I was running errands with my youngest two children, who are ages 5 and 3.

I’d gone into a store to make an exchange when my 5 year old started asking to “just look” at the toys. We weren’t in a hurry and since I’m beginning to think about Christmas shopping, I caved.

Of course, he found something he just had to have. He whined. He begged. He used all kinds of preschool logic to convince me to buy it, and no amount of reasoning with him got him to stop. Finally I got down on his level and in my best mommy voice said, “We don’t have the money right now to be spending it on toys.”

He let my words sink in. Surprisingly, he stopped frowning and for a moment he looked as though he understood.

“I know Mom!” he said excitedly. “If you don’t have any money you can just use your credit card!”

So much for that.

You may think that your child’s too young to grasp financial concepts, but there are things you can do even in the toddler years to lay the foundation. That day in the store was a real wake-up call for me, and I’ve spent some time  thinking about how to teach my kids some financial basics.

Here are 4 ways I’ve been able to use money as a learning tool with my young children, and I hope they’re helpful for you too!

Counting Coins

Preschoolers can grasp simple concepts about numbers, patterns, and counting. Why not use coins as a tool? You can then talk about what the coins represent and introduce different forms of money to your child. With the ease of credit cards and online shopping these days, kids may not have much exposure.

Matching Games

Play matching games with your child with different forms of money. There are so many ways you can do this: place bills of different values on the table and ask them to match them up. Explain the similarities and differences, and discuss with your child which bill could be used to purchase different things they’re familiar with.

Playing Store

My kids received a toy cash register from a family member and they love playing store. We set up a store with different items marked with garage sale price stickers. They use their play money to purchase the items in the store. This is another simple and easy way to introduce financial concepts to young kids.

Coin Rubbing

Use crayons and paper to create coin rubbings, then talk about the values represented by the different coins. This is a great tactile learning experience.

As you can see, there are so many ways to incorporate financial concepts into young children’s play. It’s so important to introduce them to these ideas early on…otherwise (as I learned) they might think the magic of the credit card will solve all their future financial problems. A little bit of educational play can go a long, long way.

A big thanks to Citi for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.

 

More by Mary Lauren:

Toddler Fashion File: We Love Leg Warmers!

You Asked, I Answered: How Can I Get My Toddler to Listen?

Halloween Costumes Inspired by Children’s Books

Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned writer. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, encourages moms to put down the baby books for a moment and tell their own stories. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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