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What is money?

Children start learning about money long before their first savings account, job or credit card. Begin the conversation even before they’re in school by talking about work and money. Everyday activities are teachable moments:

  • Teach your children about price comparison and value on your next trip to the grocery store.
  • Next time you visit the ATM teach your child that money doesn’t actually come from a machine, you have to earn it.
  • Next time you are opening bills take the time to talk about payment for services, credit card debt and interest rates. Children need to be taught about debt, specifically loans and credit cards.

Money is an exchange for something you need or want. Children see money exchanged but don’t fully understand the value money holds on life’s necessities. The flash cards, activities, and quizzes on the following pages can be used to teach children to identify different coins and bills, learn the value of each, and to add coins and make change.

Preschool: Focus on identifying different types of coins and counting and sorting them.

Kindergarten: Focus on how much each coin is worth, while drawing equivalencies between different coins (example: 5 pennies make 1 nickel).

First & Second Grade: Focus on how to use the fewest amount of coins to get certain amounts, and whether or not the child has enough money to buy different items at different prices. For children in the second grade, focus on how to make change.


Key lessons:

  • MONEY is exchanged for goods and services
  • BUYING something means exchanging money for it
  • The amount of money needed to buy something is called its PRICE
  • Different goods and services have different prices
  • Some things are FREE – they don’t cost money
  • If you don’t have enough money to buy something you can either save up to buy it another time or buy something else

The focus of this section is to understand what costs money and what doesn’t, that some things cost more than others and that if you don’t have enough money for something then you can’t buy it. The best way to teach these lessons is to point out instances in everyday life in which money is and isn’t spent.

Here are some hands-on ideas:

  • Point out the different prices at the grocery store. Talk about what you are buying and how much it costs. Emphasize that some items cost more than others.
  • Go on a “money tour” around the house. For example, help kids understand that hot water costs more than cold water. Or that keeping the heat up too high means spending more for heat. (This also offers a great opportunity to teach about conserving energy to save money).
  • Pile up all of the bills for the month and have them look at the amount on each one. This reiterates the cost of living.

(continue on to Earning and Managing Money)...

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