Here are four (well, actually five) hands-on math activities for coin counting practice! Use items from around the house for these simple coin counting games.
Counting coins can be kind of an abstract concept – especially since a dime is smaller than a penny! There are several skills involved with coin counting. Kids have to remember how much each coin is worth, and then use the skill of “counting on” rather than starting at one for each then. They have to remember when to count on by 1’s, 5’s, 10’s, etc. when counting a mix of coins.
This post was originally written in 2013 and updated in January 2022.
Activity #1: Ways to Make 25 cents
I quickly traced a cup to make five circles on a piece of paper. Then I set out a bowl of change, and we were ready to go!
If kids want to fill one of the circles with 25 pennies, that’s not a bad thing, haha. It will actually be good to visualize that a quarter is genuinely equal to that whole pile of pennies! And then you discuss why coins were created in different denominations. Who wants to shop with a bag of pennies?!?
Activity #2: Muffin Tin Coin Counting
My kids loved this! And it’s so easy to set up. Grab a muffin pan and fill it with paper liners. Write a different amount of money on each liner, and then have your child count out the proper coins. There are usually multiple ways to make each amount, so you can discuss afterwards whether they used the least amount of coins or not.
I have a separate article for this activity, so if you’re interested you can see more details here: Muffin Tin Coin Counting.
It’s also fun to use a muffin tin for Learning Letter Sounds.
Activity #3: Counting by Quarters
Counting by quarters can be a little tricky until kids get the pattern down. For this activity, I used a ruler to make a quick chart with 24 squares. This allowed us to count 12 quarters, or 3 dollars worth.
Have kids place a quarter in each square, leaving the row underneath open for writing.
In addition to counting quarters, this activity also gives kids practice in writing amounts with a dollar sign and a decimal point. It also helps them understand that it only takes 5 quarters to have more than a dollar!
Activity #4: Coin Counting Snack Shop
You can always do a pretend store with little toys or items from around the house, but I think a snack shop is lots of fun because kids get to keep (and eat) the items they “buy!”
We set up our snack shop with blueberries, cheese sticks, M&M’s, and granola bars. Other good options would be bananas, crackers, raisins, strawberries, or pretzels.
I wanted to charge per serving, not per item, so little plastic condiment cups worked well for that. (We did a cool Multiplication Snack Store where we charged per item and had kids multiply to get the totals! So fun.)
Give kids a set amount of money to spend, and then set your prices based on how many snacks you want them to be able to afford! Make receipts (I used index cards – so easy) and add up the total amount spent.
For kids who are just getting started counting coins, you’ll want them to be able to just count out the exact coins without worrying about change. Make this activity more complex by giving out quarters and having them figure out how much change they will get back.
It’s so funny how kids think about money… when my daughter was in kindergarten, she was convinced that if she had a $5 bill, she had to find an item to buy that costs $5. Not $4! Not $3.50! The concept of change just didn’t make sense to her. Thankfully, she has figured it all out now.
Activity #5: Fair or Not Fair?
Here’s a fun coin counting game that I picked up while student teaching. This game will let you know how much kids really understand about counting money!
Fair or Not Fair is all about trading. Is the suggested trade a fair trade? Or not? It’s not a game with a clear winner, but it’s an activity that kids will enjoy!
The parent or teacher should start by suggesting a trade. “I’ll give you five shiny pennies for just one of your dimes!” Younger kids may think that’s totally fair! If they do, explain that it’s actually not fair, and show them why.
Soon, they’ll be able to spot your tricky trades and turn them down!
Let kids also have turns suggesting trades.
Have fun counting coins!
Need more math ideas? We’ve got lots of hands-on activities.