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Kids and Coins: Activities and Ideas to Educate and Entertain

Updated on August 31, 2017

My oldest son is quick with tricks of illusion. One of his latest involves a prop, a quarter that snaps in half, or so it seems. The prop is actually much like a quarter, and the rubber band mechanism that allows it to snap is integral. Unfortunately, the rubber band only had so much snap in it, and one time too many led to the demise of the prop. My son loves to show his tricks to everyone on hand, and he usually works his way through them in sequence. Some of us figure out his secrets by the time he has performed for all household members. Still, it's a lot of fun to watch him work at such things to improve his presentation.

He's the first kid in the house to have done money tricks. At one year of age, he swallowed a penny. We didn't realize this had occurred until it showed up on an X-ray...this did not trigger rounds of applause. Rather, he ended up in the hospital for a night so that an endoscopy could be done and the coin removed. That boy! My mom still has the swallowed penny in a container at her house. That has to be the shiniest penny ever, and boy, does it sparkle!

Money can be a many-sided issue with kids. On the one hand, you want them to know how to manage it. On the other hand, you don't want them to take things like allowances for granted. My oldest son has developed a good sense for managing his money. Unfortunately, I think it's more him than us. I have other kids who spend every dime that comes their way. The oldest are learning that they have to budget, especially when income is limited and college expenses are high. Where my oldest son is concerned, however, savings is easy and generosity is abundant. Gotta love that kid's heart!

Coin Tricks and Props

My son's favorite tricks are card tricks, but this one is kind of funny, especially for the kid who saves so well. My husband and I teased him about the fact that he spent $7.50 for a broken quarter.

Age Appropriate Coin Activities

As my intro explains, coin and money activities have some lower limits for appropriateness. It's easy for a loose coin to become a big problem. While a two-year-old may begin to grasp the concept of money, he may also find it fascinating enough to taste. My friend's two-year old recently shoved a grain of corn up his nose! Age three is still a little young, but large play coins with a kids' cash register can provide some introductory concepts. Of course, those plastic coins aren't usually sparkly. However, they supply training for dealing with the sparkling kind!

Money Math: Using Coins to Reinforce Other Subjects

A friend explained her system when my oldest daughter was going into first grade. For every math problem that her child got right, she earned a penny for her collection jar. On Fridays, they would trade pennies up for shiny silver colored coins. This became a favorite activity as we developed the concept of what each coin was worth and eventually traded for dollars to spend at the store.

Allowance as a Money Education Tool

I've tried allowances over the years. I find that my kids develop bad habits when there's an allowance available. If each job is tied to coins or cash, they tend to only do the jobs that interest them or do the jobs when they want money. Since our house is not about entitlement to cash, these attempts don't last long. I need chores done whether or not there's money.

At the same time, we have provided opportunities to earn money with extra jobs. On a 2.5 acre property, it's usually easy to find something extra for the child who is up to date on regular chores and who is willing to work on something a bit more challenging. Several years ago, we took on a project of planting pine trees and paid the kids $5 per hole to dig the holes for the project. They each made a hefty sum!

What do you think about allowances for kids?

Money as a Math Manipulative

I find that a bag of coins makes a great choice for math counters. They are, of course, perfect for handling money problems in a math lesson. However, they are also excellent if you need to add, subtract, multiply or divide.

Quarter Collections and Coin Activities for Kids

When state quarters were first being released, we were preparing to live in another country. However, we did obtain an early state quarter collection book for my oldest daughter, and she faithfully added to her collection over time. She enjoyed it, but a sibling found her book and helped themselves to some pocket change at some point.

Last Christmas, Grandma and Grandpa surprised the kids with an amazing holiday gift that is providing ongoing fun for the family. Each grandchild received a collection book for state quarters and another for national park quarters. Each child also received two rolls of quarters for his or her books. There was a lot of fun as they went through their rolls and added to their books. There was plenty of trading, of course, and there was quite a bit of glee from the younger kids as they discovered plain old everyday quarters that they could keep for spending.

Now, I hang on to Daddy's loose change and keep the state and park quarters separated for occasional book days, and the kids add as they are able. That oldest son who seems to hang on to his money so well? He had a milk jug full of coins, and he filled his books fuller than his siblings did at the outset!

Foreign Coin Intrigue and Activities for Kids

My husband loves to tease at a drive-through. When the cashier states a total, he often asks if they will accept Canadian or Mexican currency. When they look annoyed and say no, he responds with, "Good. I only have American." Silly!

That occasional Canadian coin always fascinated me when I was a kid. Living in Mexico allowed me to learn to deal in another currency on a daily basis. I still find an occasional stray peso here and there. Most of the Mexican coins aren't so shiny, but they are still interesting.

My younger brother lived in Japan for a season, and when he was home for the holidays that year, he gave the kids a variety of goodies from overseas, including Japanese coins.

There are many things you can do educationally as you study foreign coins. Sorting and counting are always great. Research the exchange rates and do some practical conversions for costs of things the kids normally buy: bubble gum, ice cream, Big Macs, Wii games. Find the countries on the map and learn more about the culture and the nation. The possibilities are only limited by your own imagination.

Savings Solutions for Kids

One way to help kids learn to manage their money is to open a savings account. It was a weekly tradition to roller skate on Fridays, and the Wells Fargo people had a booth set up. It took a long time to fill out the paperwork for 8 savings accounts, but $8 later, we were ready. The kids have primarily used these for their birthday money over the years. The younger kids also use piggy banks for saving cash at home. My older children have transitioned into using their own savings and checking accounts as they've gone to college and gotten jobs. It's helpful to have a parent involved so that there is a transition period to learn about keeping track, not spending more than you have, and planning for monthly transfers or fees.

What's your favorite way to help kids save?

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Keeping the Sparkle of Coins in Perspective!

All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

...J.R.R. Tolkein

My Kids Love The Lord of the Rings!

My oldest daughter is a huge fan of LOTR. So is that oldest son who handles money really well. They love the poetry and riddles in the literature, and they enjoy comparing the movies to the books.

One of my favorite themes in the movies (I never managed to get into the reading) is the power that a gold ring had over those who encountered it. While it is fictional, the fact is that riches can become obsessive. Chasing money can ruin lives. There are lots more excellent themes running through the drama of LOTR, but this is one of the striking ones, that of the greed that is possible when the focus is wrong. Additionally, the fact is that nobody is immune, not even those with noble intentions. That's when a good friend can be a great support.

Do you have a funny money story related to kids?

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    • lesliesinclair profile image


      5 years ago

      When my children were little I paid them one penny for each nail they removed from old pallets and were they ever excited to work! A neighbor boy brought his own hammer and did quite a share of pulling.


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