Children begin to form basic understandings of money as early as the toddler years, when a $20 bill falls out of a birthday card and everyone says, "Oooh!" A preschooler might hear his parents talking about paying the bills or how much money is needed to buy a certain item. These early experiences with money are important and can contribute to future financial success, but learning to count money comes a bit later. Counting money requires several prerequisite skills and basic math understandings that build upon one another in preschool and kindergarten. As their understandings grow, most children are ready to count money by first or second grade.
Most children are exposed to coins in preschool or kindergarten. They learn that coins are different sizes and colors and they have different names and values. Young children spend time sorting dollars and coins into like groups, identifying coins and dollars and learning their values. At this stage, most kids will count all coins or dollars by ones because they aren't developmentally ready to skip count. Children in preschool and kindergarten should also learn that money is used in exchange for goods or services.
Identifying Coins and Values
Once children become familiar with the different types of currency, they can delve a little deeper. The second stage of learning to count money involves being able to identify different coins or dollars and name their values. This takes time and practice, as many kids get thrown by the fact that dimes are worth more than nickels and pennies, even though they are smaller in size. Children can also work at making equivalent groups of coins. For example, ask your child to show 10 cents with pennies, nickels or a combination of both. Increase the difficulty as your child demonstrates her understanding of easier amounts first.
In order to count money, children must be able to skip count by fives, tens, and in increments of 25 up to 100. This is a difficult skill to master and may take a couple of years of practice. Many children are exposed to skip counting in kindergarten and first grade but don't quite master it until second grade or later. Since quarters can be the hardest to grasp, begin by teaching your child to skip count by fives and tens. Give your child a small group of coins, including a couple of pennies, dimes and nickels. Teach him how to start with the coin of the highest value and count on. Add quarters into the mix once he has mastered the other coins.
Money Counting Strategies
Once children learn the basics of coins, values, skip counting and counting on, the sky's the limit. Show your child how you would count a pile of money, then ask her to count it and explain her thinking. As long as the end result is the same, a different method of getting there is fine. If your child struggles with a particular counting concept, take a step back and offer more opportunities for simple practice before pressing on. Use real-life opportunities to teach your child about money whenever possible, as this can be a real motivator to kids.