Keep a jar of coins on hand so you can play these games together at the kitchen table. Introduce coins and their values and nurture early math skills in counting, adding, subtraction, and division.
Keep Kids Counting
Once your preschooler has begun learning to count (usually by age 3), you can gently introduce the concept of monetary value. Teach him to recognize each coin and to name them. After he's learned the names of the coins, play simple counting games that will show him what each coin is worth. Put five pennies and a nickel together and have him count the pennies out. Explain that five pennies are worth the same as one nickel. Keep doing this with other combinations, such as two nickels and a dime, and four quarters and a dollar bill. You can reverse the game for an older preschooler: Pull out a dime and ask him to find--as fast as he can--a bunch of coins that add up to the 10-cent piece.
Have your child separate and sort a pile of coins. Set out four bowls, and then place a penny, nickel, dime, or quarter in front of each bowl so your child knows which coins should go where. Once she has finished sorting all the coins, she can have fun pouring them out, mixing them up, and sorting them all over again.
This activity helps preschoolers understand that size is not the same as value. Hand a penny, nickel, dime, and quarter to your child and have her place them on the table in order of size. Then, help her move the coins around so they're placed in order of value. You can reinforce the learning by counting out the number of pennies that goes with each coin and placing the piles of coins next to one another to demonstrate the difference in coin value.
Assemble a pile of coins, divisible by two, and then have your child "deal out" the coins so that each of you has the same amount of money. Let her start off by dealing out pennies only, and as she becomes comfortable with the activity, you can gradually introduce different coins. Count each set of coins together so that you can make sure you each have the same amount of money. Then put them all together and count how much you have together.
Here's a more challenging game for older preschoolers. You'll need dice and enough pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters for each player. The object of the game is for each player to acquire a quarter.
Put all the coins in the center of the table. This is the bank.
Take turns rolling the dice. Call out the number on the dice (or you can count them out together). Each player takes that number of pennies. For example, if you roll a number 4, take four pennies.
Each time a player accumulates five pennies, he/she can trade them in for a nickel. Each time a player has two nickels, trade them in for one dime, and so on.
The game ends when each player has a quarter.