The Value of Play Money

Black Friday is coming up and with it the shopping frenzy of discounts and deals. After Black Friday, we start our Christmas shopping, then move onto the Boxing Day sales, making this a perfect time to start talking about money and introducing it into dramatic play.

Dramatic play is where children discover their life skills. They mimic adults’ routines, pretending to cook, acting out their dream jobs or, in this case, shopping. Turn your space into a little store, handing out baskets or shopping carts, and asking the kids to buy a few things. Money handling skills are quintessential for most entry-level jobs and everyday life.

Teaching money handling is an important first step in developing good money habits. Children learn that each item has a value and that they need to plan or budget to make their purchases. Should they spend all their money on a big purchase or spread it out amongst multiple items? What fits their needs better? This is a great way to practice impulse control and smart buying. Plus, you’ll be teaching about the assigned (and abstract) values of different bills and coins.

For younger children, keep it simple: have them pick their items and then ask them to exchange their purchases for money. It doesn’t need to be an accurate amount; instead, focus on teaching them that an exchange is necessary when making a purchase. Take advantage of Canadian rainbow money and ask them for the amount based on colour (2 blue bills equal $10.00; 1 green and 1 blue equal $25.00). You can also leave this unstructured, allowing them to act out the roles of buyer and seller.

Once they’re ready, you can incorporate math into your dramatic play. Assign prices to the items and ask for the appropriate amount of money for their purchases, just like in real life. Not only does this practice addition and subtraction, but it teaches how to count out the correct bills and coins. Plus, you can give each a “grocery list,” with different options for each item at varying prices. The children will have a certain amount of money to spend and must figure out how to buy what they need without going over.

To make your scenarios even more realistic, use a toy cash register. The Cash Register works just like a real one; using the built-in calculator, children can keep track of sales with the included bills and coins. The Teaching Cash Register is perfect for younger students, with four games that increase in difficulty as they progress.

If you’re stuck on ideas for money activities, try Canadian Money. It covers activities and worksheets for Grades 1-4, and even includes a marking rubric.

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