Home for the Holidays? Count Those Coins!

Every year my husband rolls his annual collection of coins and donates the money to charity. Last night he had our 4-year old daughter, Elle, helping him for the first time. He knows (because he’s learned from me!) that rolling coins offers many learning opportunities for children of all ages. With schools closed for winter break, now is a great time to deal with all that spare change. Here’s how your children can help:

  • Preschool: When sorting coins, start with pennies and dimes. Quarters and nickels can be confusing because they look alike. But when your children a’re ready, comparing quarters and nickels will help them learn to distinguish between 5 and 25 cents. Preschoolers can help make piles of ten if you give them a mat with a place for each coin. I prefer a mat with two rows of 5 each.
  • Kindergarten: Sort coins and count piles of ten. Later combine the piles of ten to make groups of 40 (nickels and quarters) and groups of 50 (pennies and dimes).
  • 1st grade and older: Sort coins, count piles of 40 and 50. Watch to see if your child uses a strategy such as stacking one pile of ten and making other stacks have the same height. Another of my favorite strategies is laying the coins in rows of ten and making additional rows.

This takes longer than Coinstar, but the time spent engaged with your kids is worth much more than the 9% you save by doing it yourself!

  • What a great way to give to charities and interact with your child/children while giving them a sense that giving back to the community is important! I love the idea and will try it out with my own kids too! I was thinking of something you could add to the activity… maybe they could see how all the coins connect to each other and one dollar (have a dollar bill available). Lay the dollar bill down on top- it will be the ‘top of the tree’. Underneath that have your child pick the largest coin in value- … quarter. Then count out the quarters that equal one dollar. How many do you need? 4!! Even though kids K,1,2 are still young, it’s still ok to introduce them to the vocabulary of quarter and how one quarter is one-fourth of a dollar because it takes 4 to make a dollar. In the classroom- I even use money to connect to the concepts of time- once they have learned the four quarters of a dollar and heard the term one-quarter, one-fourth then the students can connect it to concepts of quarter past and quarter till/to.
    After using the quarters, bring out a dime and a nickel. Have your child pick up the coin that is smaller than a quarter but it the next greatest in VALUE? Here is gets tricky because nickels and dimes are not relative in size with their value and students at this age are very concrete in their thinking. Most will be quick to pick up the nickel, so tell them to make their choice very wisely!! Do the same as you did with the quarters, lay out all the dimes it will take to make a dollar. 10! Continue on in the same manner with nickels and pennies.

    Once all the coins have been laid out; you could begin making comparisons among the coins. “How many pennies does it take to make a nickel? How many nickels does it make to equal a dime? How about using a combination of nickels and pennies to equal $0.20? How many different combinations can you come up with to create $0.76? This is a great way for your child to work on equivalent values and will boost their self-esteem when they start learning this concept in the classroom= they’ll have a ‘heads-up’!!!

  • Great ideas. I particularly like making the connection between quarters in money v. time. That could be really helpful to older primary students. I can imagine a lot of fun activities comparing how many coins of the same denomination it takes to make a dollar. Thanks for all your suggestions!