Learning about coins can be confusing, to say the least. Why is a dime smaller than a nickel if it’s worth more? How much is a nickel worth again? How many dimes make a dollar? What are two quarters and a penny worth?
The magic bullet for the coin issue at our house has always been a game that became known to us as the Spare Change game. We—especially my children—love the Spare Change game, for very different reasons. I like it because it means my children understand money. They love it because it fills up their wallets.
Way back in the beginning, the Spare Change game was played by me tossing out a coin to each boy and telling him if he could identify the coin and/or tell me what it was worth, he could keep it. (They got one coin a day, and one chance to identify it.)
You wouldn’t believe how fast they learned the difference between a nickel and a dime.
As their money knowledge grew, I would toss out two coins to them. I would tell them if they could tell me the total of the two coins together, they could keep them. (They got two coins a day, and one chance to identify the sum.)
You wouldn’t believe how fast they learned what a quarter and a dime is worth.
When they got even better at money, I would toss out several coins (sometimes a small handful!) to each of them. If they could tell me what the total was of all the coins in their handful (one chance), they got to keep them.
You wouldn’t believe how fast they learned what a small handful of change can be worth.
My children got pretty darn good at counting coins and adding things up, and so I thought it was time to say goodbye to the Spare Change game.
Not so fast. 🙂
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There are plenty of ways to continue the Spare Change game. You can use it as a way to practice making change. For instance, tell me the correct change that would be given if I bought a piece of candy for 42 cents and paid with a one dollar bill. If they can tell me (one chance), keep the change that would be given.
You wouldn’t believe how good they got at making change.
When they get even more comfortable with money and math, you can also hand your kids the grocery flyer, give them a shopping list, and have them go through and figure out what the total bill would be (with tax, if necessary). Then have them make change from multiple different amounts of payment. If the bill was $47.56, what would be the change given if I pay with a $50? Three $20s? A $100 dollar bill? (You’ll have to decide what they’re keeping in that instance.)
The trick to making the Spare Change game work is 1) you only give them one chance to answer, and 2) as the amount of change they can potentially keep gets bigger, space out the spare change game. You want it to be educational, but you also don’t want to go broke.
The Spare Change game is a great hands-on, real life way to learn about how money works with a tangible payoff at the end. (Heh. See what I did there?) You wouldn’t believe how quickly my kids grasped their money concepts when we started playing this game.
Totally makes it worth having to refill my change jar.