Teaching Preschoolers Functional Money Skills: Part 2

In the age of credit and debit cards, it’s easy for a preschooler to enter kindergarten with zero to little functional money skills.

“Just swipe your card!”

“Just use the chip!”

How often do you hear this at the store?  I rarely have cash on me, so my kids are used to me using a credit or debit card to make our purchases when we are shopping.  Even their play cash register has a credit card machine on it.

Yep, my toddler knows how to use a credit card.
But what do they really know about money?  What kinds of functional money skills do they have?

In the preschool years, children can learn that money is more than a magic card you swipe at the store.  They can learn that by using those cards, they are actually using money.  They can learn basic money knowledge: how we get it, how we use it, and the basics of each bill and coin.

To continue our exploration of functional money skills with my preschooler (and my toddler), we set up a play store at our house.

I let the kids choose which items they wanted our store to sell, as well as let them set the money amounts for each item.

They were excited to begin shopping, but before that, they needed money!  Time for work!  We talk a lot at home about how adults have to do their jobs, so that they can bring home money for their family.  For their jobs today, my preschooler had to clean up his cars in the living room (there were quite a bit), and my toddler helped me put away laundry (she is a great sock matcher!)

As they got paid for their jobs, we identified the different coins and bills as they were distributed.  As I mentioned in Part 1, I got this felt money set at Target, but any money set would work!

Now the kids were off to do their shopping.  After a battle over who got to push the cart, they began loading up items.  When they were all loaded up, they came over to the checkout to cash out.

We like to use a toy cash register to play store, but you could easily do this without a cash register.  Simply use a piece of paper or white board to tally up amounts.  After tallying up our items, the kids discovered they spent 13 dollars.

We spread out all the money from their wallet to see what we could use to pay.  My preschooler was insistent on using the one hundred dollar bill.  We discussed that you typically use bills closer to the amount, but he had worked hard for that one hundred dollar bill and wanted to spend it!  So he handed over his bill and received his change.  We slowly counted out 87 dollars into his hand.

He wasn’t happy about forfeiting his one hundred dollar bill to the store, so we talked about the prospect of doing more work to earn more money.  He didn’t want to do any more work at the moment, so he decided to do some more shopping with the money he had left!

In this two part series, we looked at how preschoolers can begin to explore early money skills.  If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.


    1. I agree Norah!

      My mother in law jokes that my son always said to just “write a check” when they needed money. So there were some similarities in previous generations, but nothing like it is now!


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