Money makes the world go round, and for children it is no different. They start out as toddlers wanting to put it in their mouths to taste it, but as they grow up, they want to play with it. Whether it is playing games, using their imaginations, or just questions about what it is, kids are curious about money.
There are several fun games on the market that introduce kids to money concepts. Monopoly Junior comes in many different themes—there are versions featuring Adventure Time, My Little Pony, and even Star Wars. Players can practice buying and selling property as well as counting their loot at the end of the game. Settlers of Catan also introduces children to the concept of using money strategically to win the game.
Little entrepreneurs can set up shop with empty cardboard food boxes for groceries or their own stuffed animals and toys. Take turns being the shopper and the cashier. Some toy cash registers have pictures of food with their prices built into them and they make a great place to store all the pretend cash. Restaurant is another fun imagination game to play. Order lots of food from their pretend kitchen then settle your tab and don't forget to leave a big tip. Your child may want to treat their play money the same way you do so don't be surprised when they begin carrying it around in a purse or wallet. These pretend practices will help them learn to be responsible with their money so they're ready for the day they need to carry a few dollars of their own.
As money starts to have meaning to kids, they want to know the names and how much each coin or bill can buy. You can make some homemade games to emphasize this. Create a coin rubbing, which is a fun activity in itself, to make bingo cards. Be sure to make one square the rubbing of the front and an additional square the rubbing of the back of the coin. Rubbings are best done with copy paper and colored pencils but you can always glue it to card stock for durability. After making the rubbings, toss the coins into a bowl and pull them out one by one saying each name and matching them to the board to make a Bingo. You can also make a matching game with index cards to show pictures of objects your kids recognize and a price. Make the opposite card a picture of a piece of money. Some ideas would be a small pack of gum ($0.25) and a quarter, a box of raisins ($1.00) and a dollar bill, or a piece of string ($0.01) and a penny.
No matter how you play with money, it won't be long before they are asking for the real thing... then it might be wise to invest in a money tree.
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