For Parents

How to Teach Coin and Dollar Values to Kids

Here are ways to teach your kids specific coin values.

us-dollars-and-coins

Ok, so here’s the thing, teaching coins and dollar values to small children isn’t easy. It can be if you have an inquisitive little one. But for the most part, kids may lose attention when you’re explaining the intricacies of money, spending, etc. That’s especially true in this day and age where 10-30 second video clips are a primary form of entertainment for kids and adults alike. 

But there are ways to effectively teach your kids everything they need to know about US currency. Here’s the breakdown. 

US Currency You Should Cover With Your Kids

You’ll want to cover all the basic coins and bills from the penny to the hundred dollar bill. It’s good to separate teaching currency values as a standalone lesson instead of combining it with more complex finances like budgeting, bills, etc. Even middle school-aged kids can get confused if they’re learning it all for the first time. Plus, teaching currency first helps keep you organized and on track. Let’s be honest; kids are going to have tons of questions. 

The most important thing to remember is to keep calm and remain patient. That’s especially true if you have multiple little ones you’re teaching at once. For kindergarten-aged kids, it’s best to introduce one currency at a time and only move on once they’ve committed it to memory. 

How To Teach Your Kids US Coin and Dollar Values (And Have Some Fun)

Here are some tips, tricks, and games to teach each denomination 

Penny

The penny might be the most straightforward coin to teach, but you’ll still want to spend time making sure your little one understands why they have value. Start with teaching simple addition. A fun game to play for this is Digits. To play, ask your tyke this question: How much money would they have if each finger (and thumb) were worth a penny? 

Another great way to teach your child the value of pennies and subsequently basic division is to gather a hundred pennies and have your kid substitute other coins to equal the same amount. An example for that might be 75 pennies and one quarter, or 80 pennies and two dimes, etc. This second technique works best once they have the other coins memorized. 

Nickel

The nickel is an excellent opportunity to practice skip counting, also known as times table, multiplication, etc. One way you can teach them nickels is to grab a random amount of nickels and have them count them up. Make a game of it by timing them and giving them a small reward once each time they get significantly faster at counting them up. If they’ve already mastered pennies, you can use a visual aid of placing five pennies next to a nickel. 

Dime

There’s a chance dime value may confuse some children because it is the smallest coin, yet it’s worth more than a penny and nickel. That’s why arranging coins in order of value can help children better understand how to use them. To teach dimes specifically, use tactile facts like the ridge of the coin and the direction of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s face. Unlike most other coins, the portrait is facing left. These techniques can be especially helpful for children with vision issues. 

Quarter

Chances are, the quarter will be the coin your child uses the most. To teach its value effectively, and in doing so, also get a head start on fractions, explain how much many quarters fit into a dollar. You can use phrases like “A quarter is 25% of a dollar” or “A 25-year-old is a quarter of a century old.” 

Dollar

The dollar bill is a great way to recap coin values. Have your child add up coins that equal a dollar. Let them exchange a dollar’s worth of coins for their own dollar to make a game of it. This technique also lays the groundwork for budgeting lessons later on. To teach the dollar specifically, have them focus on the numerical value symbol in the corners of the bill. 

Another option is to point out that the written text, “One Dollar Bill,” is the only singular spelling on paper currency. For example, the text reads, “Five Dollars” on the five-dollar bill. It’s a small effective way of teaching them values, and by training them to look for the S, you’re helping them hone in on the differences between each bill. 

Five Dollar Bill

The five-dollar bill gives you the chance to test your kids’ overall math skills. It’s large enough to have them add up complex coin values to reach a five-dollar total, but small enough, you can reward them with one as they progress throughout the lesson. Teach them the value of the bill by having them arrange all the currency they’ve learned so in order of their value. Once they have them arranged properly, mix the currencies back up in random order and have them redo it until it’s second nature.

Ten Dollar Bill

By now, your child has likely become pretty adept at simple multiplication. With that in mind, ten being a round number, the ten-dollar bill can be taught by teaching approximate values. Pick a number and have your kid figure out how many times the number can be divided by ten. It makes it a little easier if you also teach them the idea of rounding to the nearest whole number. That way, it’s a bit easier to do the math in their head. 

Twenty Dollar Bill

The twenty-dollar bill can be taught by relying on the knowledge of prior taught paper currencies. A great way to make a game of this is to use a series of index cards. Write each way to add up 1’s, 5’s, and 10’s on an individual card. For example, 2 five’s, and 1 ten equal 20 is written on one card, and 2 tens on another, 20 one’s on another card, etc., etc. Once you’ve assembled the cards, have them list all the ways they can get to 20 by just using 1’s, 5’s, and 10’s. For each answer, give them the corresponding index card. Then build encouragement by giving them a reward based on how many answers they’ve figured out. 

Fifty Dollar Bill

If you’ve taught the currencies in order of value, which you should, fifty is the largest starting number they’ve faced. If that’s the case, it’s your opportunity to compliment them on their progress. To teach the value of the fifty to younger kids, have them count to fifty. The amount of time it’ll take them to get there helps impress on them exactly how much more it is compared to the currency they’ve already learned. 

Hundred Dollar Bill

The hundred-dollar bill gives you an easy way to retest their knowledge of all of the other currencies. It’s also an excellent opportunity to test out alternative methods of teaching money values. In the end, their curiosity and ability is the most important thing you want. It means they’re engaged and learning. General ways to teach values include having them draw each currency on a chart in terms of the monetary order. For artistic children, let them take the time to draw each currency as realistic as they can. For children more focused on facts, incorporate the history of each bill into the lesson. That includes presidents, locations, etc. Other great methods include rhyming, flashcards, and around-the-house charts. 

When To Start Teaching Kids About Currency Values

The exact time to start teaching currency values varies from child to child. But generally speaking, there’s no wrong time to at least lay the groundwork about money, money terms, and values. If your child learns a little slower than others, then adjust to that and give them the room and encouragement to pick up new values and terms at their own pace. 

How To Set a Good Example as a Parent

Transparency is the best way to set an example as a parent when it comes to money. Financial status isn’t as important as explaining how you budget, what you budget for, and how you make your money last. Beyond that, we cannot stress enough the importance of patience in teaching. For many of us, the stresses of adulting can make us a bit short on patience. And believe it or not, your kid can pick up on that through tone and body language. But with a bit of ingenuity, consistency, and focus, you’ll be able to teach your kid all about money, life, and everything else they need to be successful.

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About the Author

Chadhurst Sharpe

Chadhurst Jainlett Sharpe spent over six years working as a personal finance banker. He's passionate about giving young minds the tools and resources they need to succeed with money.

Last updated on: May 3, 2022