In response to my blog post last week about what I consider to be the perfect holiday present for young kids, I received lots of wonderful emails asking about what other educational holiday gifts I would recommend for youngsters. So this blog post will be devoted to another gift that I consider perfect for young children and amazingly cost-conscious for parents: A bag of coins!
I love this gift idea for several reasons:
- It couldn’t be simpler and is one gift that you don’t have to brave the long lines in toy stores to get.
- It is very easy to adjust the collection of coins to meet any child’s skill level. (For younger children, I might put in only two types of coin - pennies and dimes, for example. Older children can manipulate all four denominations.)
- Kids LOVE playing with money.
- There are a wide variety of games and activities using coins that enhance skill development while being a lot of fun.
- This is an inexpensive gift, but one that children love!
How to create this gift
Making this gift is amazingly easy.
First, find (or sew - it’s not too difficult) a drawstring fabric bag. (If you prefer, a small jar or empty plastic container also works.)
Then simply fill the bag or container with a variety of coins. (My daughter is not comfortable letting her child play with coins from her purse because of the germ factor, and I get that. So I solved that problem by throwing the coins in a small tub of sudsy water before putting them in the bag. Not only are the coins sanitized, but they look shinier too! A simple polish with a vinegar/salt combination also shines up coins!) So your child can make exchanges (five pennies for one nickel, for example, be sure to include an ample amount of each type of coin.
For younger children, I suggest gifting two different bags: one with only two types of coins (pennies and dimes, for example) and a second bag with multiple denominations of coins. Once a child learns how to manipulate the coins in the first bag, it will be easier and less intimidating for him to start playing with multiple different types of coins.
A simple bag of coins can give rise to countless fun and educational games. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Counting: Ask your child to simply count the number of coins in the bag.
- Sort the coins: Ask your child to divide the coins into separate piles.
- Stack the coins: Ask your child to stack all of the coins to create a tower. This will provide practice controlling the fine muscles in the fingers. Your child may realize, through trial and error, that the larger coins are best placed at the bottom of the stack. Add some excitement to this game by dividing the pile of coins into two equal piles and race against your child to see who can create a finished stack first.
- Graphing: Now ask your child to count the amount in each pile and record his findings on a graph. Remember to ask your child some important follow-up questions about the completed graph such as: Which group has the most? Which group has the least? Are any groups equivalent?
- Discover the value of the coins: Help your child count the amount of money each pile represents. Counting by ones (pennies) and tens (dimes) is the easiest for children. Then demonstrate how to count the value of the nickels and the quarters.
- Make an Equivalent Chart: Show your child how to create the same amount of money with each type of coin. Fifty cents is a good place to start. Ask your child to show 2 quarters, 5 dimes, 10 nickels and (if you have it) 50 pennies and explain that each pile represents the same amount of money. Then help your child create a poster that tells how many of each coin is needed to create 50 cents. Your child can paste one coin of each denomination on his chart to make it realistic and fun.
- Play Pretend Store: Cut out pictures of toys from catalogs or newspaper ads. Paste each picture on an individual index card and use a bold marker to write a pretend price on the card. You can adjust the price to reflect your child’s skill level counting amounts with coins. Then show your child the cards and allow him to “shop” for toys by using his money to purchase the toy at the price quoted on the card.
- Play Coin War: Ask your child to divide his pile of coins randomly into two equal piles. Put each pile in a cup. Each player closes his eyes and spills a coin from his cup into his empty hand. Then each player shows his coin. The player with the higher amount coin takes both coins and sets them aside. When all the coins in the cup have been spilled out, each player takes his pile of “set aside” coins, puts them back in the empty cup, and the play continues. As in the traditional WAR game with cards, the first player to collect all of the coins wins.
I wish you all a wonderful (and educational) holiday season with the special people in your life!