Teaching your child about money reinforces the basic number facts of the base 10 number system: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.   At first, for younger children, you can count the number of each denomination you have on hand.  And, as you move up the currency you can show how each is related to the others.   Another important concept to teach here grouping similar coins and bills.  One way to reinforce this grouping, is to count more than $2 worth of pennies, nickels and/or dimes.   Let your child count until half of the coins have been counted, then distract him/her to read a few pages of his/her favorite book, better if it relates to counting.  After that task has been completed, return your child to continue counting the coins.   He/she will probably start over, and here is where you step in to show your child how to group the coins in separate piles; doing so makes it easy to return to the task and later to actually find the value of all coins.

  • A penny represents 1
  • A nickel represents 5  (pennies)
  • A dime  represents 10 (pennies)
  • A quarter represents 25 (pennies)
  • A fifty cent piece (half dollar) represents 50 (pennies)
  • ...and a dollar piece represents 100 (pennies).

Notice how I related each denomination to pennies.  As your child masters these equivalences he/she will make relationships between the others, like 2 nickels makes a dime.

10 groups of 10

Here we go....    start with a bag of 100 pennies.   Use real currency here, you are not doing your child any favors with fake money.  Have your child start counting the pennies, as I mentioned earlier.  Now interrupt and return.  Suggest to you child to place these pennies into separate piles with the same number of pennies in each.  10 is a number familiar to probably every child and is the number to use.  Your child already counts 1, 2, 3, ..., 9, 10   and starts over, 11, 12, 13, ..., 19, 20  etc.  Interrupt your child again, then return.  Point out it is much easier to continue then to start all over again.

10 groups of 10 = 100 = 1 dollar

Your child has now separated the pennies into 10 piles of 10.  Count these, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 , 70, 80, 90, 100.  Point out if all the pennies are placed in a pile, you wouldn't know there were 100 pennies.  We've  grouped the pennies into equal piles of 10.  Point this out, it is most important.  Move the piles next to each other and place a dollar piece next to it (or a dollar bill if you have no dollar piece.)   Make the equivalence between the pennies and the dollar.  100 pennies is 1 dollar.  As k your child which would be easier to carry around, a bag of 100 pennies or a single dollar coin (or bill).

What's a penny for?

This is still too abstract!  What's a penny? What's a dollar?  Ok, a "cent"  is a "penny."  So, in words, if a toy costs 1 dollar and 35 cents, then ask your child how many pennies it would take to buy that toy?  Help your child make the connection between the pennies already counted and the price of this toy.  Not enough pennies.  Now place the dollar piece there and ask your child if there is enough.  How many of the pennies would be required with the dollar?  How many pennies are left?

10 dimes = 1 dollar

Once again, have your child divide the pennies into 10 piles of 10.  Ask your child to verify he/she has 100 pennies.  Repetition is most important throughout.  Now, explain with 10 dimes handy that each dime is the same as each pile of pennies by placing a dime by each pile.  Ask your child if the pennies added up to a dollar.  Hopefully with the answer yes, then, ask how many dimes add up to a dollar.  Help your child arrive to the answer 10.  So, help your child make the connection that 10 dimes represents 100 pennies which represents a dollar.  Now with the pennies, dimes and dollar, ask your child to pay for the toy mentioned above.  Any answer as long as it's correct is fine.  For example, use the dollar and 35 pennies.  But help your child connect the dimes, the dollar and the pennies to pay for the toy with the dollar, 3 dimes and 5 pennies.

50 cent piece (half dollar)

Here we go again, have your child divide the pennies into 10 columns of 10 pennies apiece.  Reinforce that 100 pennies in 10 columns of 10 pennies apiece is the same as 1 dollar.    Now separate the first 5 columns from the last five columns.  Place a 50 cent piece above each group of 5 columns.  Explain to your child that each 50 cent piece is 50 pennies.  So 2 half dollars is 100 pennies is 1 dollar.  Now, ask your child to place the dimes back into the picture, one above each column.  then ask, how many dimes are in the half dollar.

The nickel

This time have your child separate the pennies into piles of 5 each.  When done, ask how many piles there are.  then ask if this makes sense?  10 piles of 10 is 20 piles of 5.  this can be hard to grasp, if so, have your child separate into columns of ten, then carefully pull the bottom five pennies from each column a bit below the top five.  Now count the groups of 5.  Have your child place a nickel by each 5 pennies.  And say with your child  "5 pennies is a nickel" for each nickel.  So 20 nickels represents 100 pennies which is 1 dollar.  Recall the half dollar exercise. How many nickels are in the each of the two groups?   10 nickels is a half dollar.

The quarter

Have your child group the pennies in columns of 10 each.  Now count the pennies starting from 1 down one column then the next.  When your child reaches 25, group those pennies together, then start counting again, 1 to 25.   You should have 4 groups of 25 pennies, 2 and 1/2 columns each.  Now have your child place a quarter next to each group.  So, each quarter is 25 pennies, and 4 quarters are 100 pennies.

Now is a good time to have your child relate dimes and nickels to quarters, quarters to half dollars, etc.  Ask your child with all of these choices how he/she would pay for that 1 dollar and 35 cent toy.  Explore all possibilities.     

Finally, have your child play play bank teller.  Ask your child to convert one denomination to the other.  More advance, ask your child to make change for a purchase of some pretend item.


Oh, one final note, its fine to tell your child that $1.35  means 1 dollar and 35 cents.  That is, the number to the left of the decimal point (dot) is the number of dollars and the number to the right of the dot is the number of pennies.

Have fun!  And don't try to do this all in one sitting!  This takes time!

Kindergarten Money Lesson