I remember when my daughter got her first play kitchen. She spent hours serving me plastic food on tiny princess plates. She thought she was just having fun, but I knew her pretend play was helping her develop language and social skills.
Kids learn best when they are engaged and having fun. Pretend play is the perfect opportunity to help your child develop and strengthen money skills.
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This math activity is simple to set up and uses materials you already have on hand. Plus, kids love to play store!
Teaching Money Skills with Pretend Play
To set up the activity, first gather the items you will place in your “store.” We used items from our play kitchen and some of our pretend tools, too.
You can gather the items yourself, but allowing your child to select the items will give them more ownership of the activity. They may choose small plastic animals, action figures, or even items from your pantry. Part of the fun is seeing what they come up with.
Next, give each item a price. I used Post-It Notes to do this. You could also write prices on masking tape or use tape to attach small squares of paper with the prices written on them.
You can use pretend money for this activity, or raid the piggy bank and use real coins like we did. (I love this play money set because it’s so realistic.)
Modify this money skills activity to fit your child’s needs.
For younger children you might want all the prices to be a multiple of 10. This way your child can work on counting by 10’s and use dimes to make their purchases. If your child is working on counting by 5’s, write prices they can pay with nickels.
For older children you can write larger prices and encourage them to use a variety of coins to purchase the items. This is great if they are just learning to count out quarters.
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How you play will depend on your child’s age and how comfortable they are with counting money.
If you’re just starting out, have your child go shopping. Once they pick the items they want to buy, let them count out the coins they owe you. Not only will they be learning how to count their money, but they will also be learning to make decisions. If they don’t have enough money to buy all the items they selected, they will need to decide which ones they really want.
Next, you might want to try letting them be the store owner. Go shopping and give them your payment. Have them check to see if you gave them the right amount. Is it too little? How much do you still owe? Is it too much? You can use the opportunity to show them how to count back change.
You might even have them write up a receipt for your purchases. We worked on adding several amounts of money together, being careful to keep the decimal points lined up. Once the kids told me what I owed, I had them write out the subtraction problem to figure out the change they owed me.
You can enrich this pretend play activity even further by adding art to it. Ask your child to create a name for the store and design a store ad.
Playing store is such an important way for kids to work on real-life money skills. With very little set up they can work on counting money, adding monetary amounts, and giving change, all skills they need to know.
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