Counting Coins

How to teach kids how to count coins

Learning how to handle coins is an intricate and important skill. It involves recognizing each coin. Then your child must know how much each coin is worth. Finally your child uses addition and multiplication skills to determine the total worth of coins and subtraction skills to give change.

Whew! That’s a lot. But, believe it or not, there are a lot of preschoolers that can learn these skills before they start school. It just takes play that builds skill upon skill.

When to start

Basically, you can start teaching your child about coins when you are comfortable that your child won’t swallow them. Actually, you can work with toddlers on coins. Just make larger-than-life pictures of the coins in your wallet. Tape the pictures to cards and use them with your toddler. You can teach your child to recognize and name each coin. Just don’t give your little ones any coins until you know that they won’t go into the child’s mouth. Not only are they choking hazards, but coins are notoriously filthy.


This is the first step towards understanding money. You can begin your work with pictures. Simply use the coin flashcard you made for your toddler. Point out the different faces on each coin. Then turn the coin over and show your child the picture or relief on the back.

Once your child can recognize the picture, move on to toy coins or real coins. If you opt to use toy coins, make sure that they are accurate. Often times, in order to get around currency laws, toy companies put imaginary patterns or even toy characters on their coins. This may be cute, but it will only confuse your child. Instead, opt for a set of coins that really represents your currency. This educational set of coins is a good example. When your child can name each coin on sight, regardless of which side you show, you’re ready to move on to the next phase.


We use coins because they have value. Each coin is worth a different amount. As your child names each coin, start by adding the value to each one. For example, a penny is worth one cent. Adding the value information to each coin is important, but it might not take very long. As you show your child the coin, just ask “how much?” Over time, matching the value with the image and the name will become second nature.

Adding it up

Once your child is familiar with the coins, it’s time to start adding coins up. Start simply with pennies. That way you are simply adding 1 + 1 + 1 and so on. This is a good time to start using real or toy coins, because it gives the child something to manipulate as she adds. She can actually move the coins from one pile to another as she counts aloud.

As you move on to larger coins, teach your child how to count by other numbers. For example, you can teach your child to count by 2, by 5 or by 10. Not only does this help your child learn to count coins, but you are actually teaching your child basic multiplication skills.

In the beginning, ask your child to count coins of a single denomination. For example, have him count only pennies or only ten cent pieces.

When you and your child are comfortable counting a single denomination, begin to add two denominations. For example, add two or three pennies to a group of dimes. Help your child sort the coins into two piles and then add up each group. Write down the value of each group and help your child add the two numbers together. You can also show your child how to “count on.” This is a simple procedure. Just count the larger coin denomination first, the count the singles one at a time. For example, if you laid out four dimes and three pennies, you and your child might count: “ten, twenty, thirty, forty, forty-one, forty-two, forty-three.”

Making Change

The final coin skill is learning how to make change from a pile of coins. This involves teaching your child how to subtract one amount from another. You don’t need to write it down, you can simply count out the amount needed, and then count out what is leftover. This is the essence of subtraction: the difference between two numbers. For example, if you might place a pile of coins in front of your child, and a pile in front of yourself. Both of you count how much money you have. Then line up the matching coins, to see who has more. The difference becomes your change.

Money Games

Chore Change

Give a “price” to each of the chores your child does every day. For example, you might give your child a nickel every time he makes his bed, or a penny every time he puts his book back on the shelf. When he completes the chore, “pay” him with either toy coins or pictures of coins. Then make a list of treats that he can “purchase” with the correct number of coins. For example, he might “purchase” an extra bedtime story, or time on an electronic device. But, he has to count out the price for you.

Do I Have Enough?

Cut out pictures of toys from magazines or catalogs, or print them off the internet. Give each toy a different value and write it on the picture. For example, you might write “39 cents” next to a ball, or “57 cents” next to a book. Then give your child a pile of coins. Ask the child to count out the value of the coins in the pile. Then look at the pictures and see what the child can “buy” with the coins. This game not only reinforces value knowledge and addition, but it also encourages your child to subtract the value of the object from the value of the pile of coins.

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