For Parents

How to Teach Kids to Count Money

Want to learn effective ways to teach your kids to count money? We got you covered, here is our step-by-step process and how to practice as well!

boy-and-girl-counting-money

As a parent, there are dozens of things that your kid relies on you to teach them. Money math and counting money are among the most important items on that list. We all know adults with poor money habits, and most of us know what it’s like to stress over a bill, and of course, every parent wants their kid to be as well prepared for adulthood as possible. 

Granted, there’s a bit of a gap between knowing you need to teach your kid about money and how to do that exactly. The good news is that any parent can help their kid get a grasp of money with a little patience, consistency, and resources. Here’s a play-by-play of effective methods you can use to teach your kid how to count money and the importance of values. 

Step 1: Teach the Value of Coins and Dollars

Start with the basics – coins and dollars. We advise starting specifically with coins first. Coins are a good starting lesson because children typically have a few of their own, and it’s easier to explain how to make change later down the line if they already have a strong understanding of coins. 

If your child displays a mind for numbers, then our advice is to start them with money math worksheets that focus on values. For example, “How much money are four dimes equal to?” A child with a mind for numbers will grasp the adding and subtracting concepts easier but may get distracted or confused by word and picture problems. 

Conversely, if a child struggles with numbers, use worksheets that emphasize word problems or pictures. For example, “Bill goes to the grocery store to buy two loaves of bread for $0.50 a piece and a pack of gum that costs $0.05. How much does Bill owe?” The reason word problems can help a child challenged by math is that it gives them a tangible situation to focus on. 

Step 2: Teach Them How to Sort Their Money

Teaching your kid how to sort money is best done in small portions. Start with a few coins and then introduce bills. An important part of sorting cash is knowing how much you’re going to take with you on any given day, if at all. For obvious reasons, no kid should walk around with their entire life savings on their person. 

With that in mind, sit down with your future millionaire and figure out exactly what they’re going to be buying and the price range. Are you going to the dollar store? A single $5.00 goes a long way. Are you going out of town to visit relatives? Maybe bring a $20.00 to last the whole trip.

One good way to teach money sorting techniques while also giving them an idea of what different necessities cost is to have them focus on real-life prices. If you ask most kids how much money is “a lot”, they’ll probably say something like $100.00 or maybe even a thousand. They’ll be shocked to learn how much a home or car costs. But understanding that the money they do have isn’t a lot can reinforce their grasp of money values. 

When it comes to sorting physical cash, a great way to keep them engaged is by getting them a starter wallet or purse and letting them organize it. We’ve got an article here that can help them do just that. 

Step 3: Teach Them to Start With the Biggest Values and Start Counting!

We recommend counting money values from the biggest to the smallest. It’s easier for most kids to keep track of it that way. That said, there’s not a one size fits all approach to understanding money math. If they struggle with counting down, let them count up from the smallest values to see if that works better. 

In the end, the most important thing is to make sure they’re counting consistently and every day. 

Step 4: Teach Them to Budget

More and more teens are entering the workforce. Most of them start generating some form of income through part-time employment, programs, entrepreneurial endeavors, and more. With the internet, it’s easier than ever for kids to make a wage, and your job as a parent is to teach them how to spend it and save it. 

It’s never too early to explain bills and budgeting. Keep it simple, be upfront and clear about the bills you pay and how much money you save annually. When you think they’re ready, introduce an allowance and charge them a small portion of that. Whatever the small amount that you charge them, it’s a good idea to save it and return it to them at the end of the year. Getting a lump sum back helps them see the direct benefits of saving money. 

Step 5: Leave Room for Questions

This goes for any aspect of money math. Don’t get frustrated if a concept that seems, or has always seemed, simple to you takes a little more time for your kid to comprehend. If you make them feel anxious, less-than, and other negative emotions, it could make them less enthusiastic about lessons and asking questions. 

Pause after each new lesson and ask them if there’s something you can explain better or that they’d like to hear again. Remember, patience is always a virtue in teaching. 

How to Practice Counting Money in Everyday Life and Get Them Excited About it

Here are some quick and easy ways you can teach your kid to count money on a daily basis. 

Make it a Game

The easiest way to engage your kid is to turn a lesson into a game. When it comes to money math, we recommend playing Storefront. The game has countless names, like Diner, Pizza Place, Cashier, etc., but the premise remains the same. Your little entrepreneur plays a business owner who sells you items and gives you change. You can always purchase a manufactured game like PizzCo to add a little razzle-dazzle. We’ve got an article on the best toys for kids learning money math here

But you can also have a little arts and crafts and create play money from paper. Try making a thing of it and getting your kid to draw the currency. If neither of those is an option, you can print play money from various sites. 

There are dozens of games you can play that will keep your kid interested and learning! 

Quiz Them Daily

Ask your child a new money math problem every day. You can make them up or look them up online. They don’t need to complete full worksheets, just one or two questions a day to keep them on their toes, and thinking about money is all it takes. 

It’s a good idea to reward them for answering correctly. 

Errands

Chances are you already take your kids shopping. Next time you do, ask them to read the prices off to you and let them gauge how much they think the total is. While it’s not an everyday thing, it’ll help them start thinking about food and other supplies as an expense. 

Reminders

One of the best ways to learn a language is to immerse yourself in the culture and money math is definitely a language. You can immerse your kids by using fridge magnets to make up a new problem daily or invest in a money math poster. You can also leave them literal money problems in their lunch bag. Just small reminders to keep them motivated can go a long way. 

Media

Media, in this case, includes books, games, tv shows, movies, etc., that are centered around money math. It’s also a great opportunity to hang out with your kid and bond while they learn. One of the best media options are songs! Sing-a-long says help your kid memorize things a lot faster. There are dozens of YouTube channels, tv shows, and more that your kid can listen to and learn from. Try it out! 

Well, we’ve reached the end for now. Check out our other articles for more on teaching your kid the money math essentials. Or let your kids browse our kids’ section where they can learn money principles, how to make money, how to count money, and much, much more!

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: July 15, 2022