I mentioned, in a previous post, the grocery store I set up for the kids I nanny. I wanted to elaborate a little more because they had much more fun than I had anticipated and I'm sure other 4 year olds (or older children, really) would enjoy it equally as much.
After Amelia received a visit from the tooth fairy, I became aware of how completely foreign the concept of money is to both she and her twin Henry. So when I saw some plastic and paper play money in the target $1.00 section I decided it might be worth introducing the idea on a rudimentary level.
Another observation of mine: everything has a mommy and daddy. The squirrels, batman, toy cars, pillows, everything. In the world of these four year olds, life revolves around a family. Because of this, I decided to introduce the coins as a family. It may sound silly, but it clicked for them.
Puppy dog: penny
The dollar was easy because it has the number on it, so I didn't incorporate it into the family.
As I laid the coins out and they touched them, counted them, etc we referred to them as papa quarter, puppy dog penny, (you get the picture) to help them get the saying into their head. The idea being to associate the size of the coin with its name. I wanted to keep it fun and simple. I chose not to introduce the monetary value because that is a bit beyond what they need to understand right now in my opinion. Because of this, they couldn't trade 2 nickels for 1 dime etc. everything was just equal. I don't think this will be confusing later because their whole knowledge base is built by expanding upon simple concepts they already understand. This is just a fun way to get them used to money and learning the names of the coins.
Okay, so...In one of the bedrooms I set up all of their plastic food from their play kitchen in groupings: veggies, fruit, dairy, breads. I also set up a sandwich station because they had a sandwich set.
Under each grouping I taped a simple sign with a picture of the food group and a picture of the coin(s) you need to buy something from said grouping.
They each picked a change purse from one of Amelia's dozens and I allotted them each some money. I would play the cashier when they were done shopping. I initially made sure they would not be able to evenly spend all of their money, hoping they could understand the concept of not having enough money for all they wished to buy. I didn't want them to get the idea that there is always enough money for whatever they want. It sounds silly and I wondered if I was over-thinking it, but it provided an opening for good conversations about earning money and begin careful which items you choose, so I'm glad I did it that way.
A couple of the days I covered the den with books and stuffed animals. If they wanted to "earn" more money they could "work". So they would get to choose 1 coin for every 3 things they picked up and put away. They have had a lot of fun with it - often asking for more work.
Occasionally I will change the cost of the grocery items to make it a new experience but they haven't gotten bored with it yet. We take turns being the shoppers and the workers, giving them the chance to take the money and make sure it is enough. Checking out is a slow process because I would go one food at a time, having them pay me for each individually; Other wise they get lost in the numbers.
It was interesting, watching as they gained an awareness of how much money they had and how much it would buy. The first time, they both filled their baskets completely full and when I asked if they thought they could buy it all they said yes. As we went, and they realized they kept having to put most of the food back, they would only put a few items in their basket and then go back for more if they had leftover money. I chose to not discuss the idea of saving or giving because I wanted to keep it fun, but when they become aware of how much each coin is worth, I think the idea will be easier and more appropriate to present.
A couple of the things I think they enjoyed most about this is that it is a grown up activity: grocery shopping. They felt big and they thought it was special to have their own money.
It was something fun we could do together but also simple enough that they could run the show on their own.
Okay that's really all I have to say about it I think. In summery, it has been a learning tool and a fun little adventure for the kids. I hope I can discover more of these as time goes by. Suggestions?