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How to Teach Your Kids to Count and Identify Coins

Pile of Coins

Nowadays, people make most of their purchases with plastic, so you may wonder if it’s worthwhile to teach your kids how to identify and count coins. The truth is, coins are still in use, particularly by kids, and knowing how to count them is an important, fundamental skill for children.

First grade is when my children were introduced to recognizing and counting coins in school. To reinforce the learning process, we practiced coin counting at home. Once children grasp being able to count money, they can start transacting and participating in the economy. It’s empowering for children to be able to go into a store and purchase things on their own. This one skill can start a child’s financial journey and act as a basic building block for other financial skills down the road such as money management and budgeting.


Coin Recognition

To start the learning process, you first need to be able to identify the various types of coins. Traditionally this is a penny, nickel, dime, and quarter. Practicing with real coins vs plastic aids in recognition skills since children will understand the look and feel of each coin. Once you have a variety of coins, review with your child what each one is called. Test their skills by giving them two different coins, perhaps a nickel and a dime, and asking your child to hand you the nickel. After your child has mastered distinguishing coins, have them practice sorting a mixed pile of coins. This can be as simple as sorting them into a pile for each denomination or having them help you sort coins to put in coin wrappers to bring to the bank.

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Math Skills

Coins can be used to reinforce and practice math skills. Knowing basic math skills gives your child the ability to know which coins are needed to make live purchases in a store. To be able to count coins, it is helpful to first master he ability to skip count. This is a foundational concept that is often referred to as counting by fives, tens, or any denomination other than one. To exercise this skill, have your child practice counting nickels by fives, then work towards dimes and quarters.

To ensure your child can add up various coin combinations, practice addition by combining different coins and ask your child to add them up for you. Ask your child to write down the value of each coin on a piece of paper to show how the answer was found, and to prove your child has mastered identifying the various coin denominations. They can also practice subtraction in his manner, by removing a coin and telling you how much money is left.

It’s not only important to know how many coins are needed to make a purchase (addition). It’s just as important to know how much change you should expect back (subtraction) if exact change was not given. This component of teaching your child to count coins may take the longest, depending on your child’s math skills.



Games offer a fun way to practice money and math skills. A favorite game in our house is Monopoly Junior. Instead of using the Monopoly dollars, we use real coins to play the game for coin recognition and money counting practice. Sometimes it’s fun to incentivize the game by giving your child any remaining money at the end.

Another game you can try is Store. Set up your store with items from around the house and put price tags on them. Give your children money and allow them to buy the items in your store. Take turns being the shopper and storekeeper. The storekeeper is an important role too since you may need to make change for your customer counting money back. If music appeals to your child more than a game, there are many counting coin songs and chants available on YouTube.

Like any skill in life, your children will need to learn how to count coins one step at a time. It is important for them to first learn how to recognize a coin’s value. Once they know the value, they can then practice skip counting, which will then enable them to recognize different coin combinations. Be patient with their learning process, letting them take the time to master each skill, one at a time, which will allow them to learn how to successfully count money.


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Caroline Cross - Bio

About Caroline Cross

Caroline Cross is the branch lead at VSECU's Williston branch. Her daily interactions with members can range from opening accounts to closing consumer loans. Caroline lives in Williston with her husband and two children.
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