Here is a fun-filled activity that will also have solid value in teaching children in your care some essential money skills. It is easy, very low cost and adaptable for children of many ages. Playing store allows creativity and imagination to flourish while offering plenty of practice in practical money handling skills. The game can change and become more complex and sophisticated as children get older and increase their levels of money handling skill.
FOR 3-5 YEAR OLDS
You can set up a simple store by placing some favorite toys on a shelf or table. Mark each with an easily understood price on tags made of bright colored paper. Children will enjoy using props from the "dress up" box to make the game more fun, such as purses or wallets, hats and gloves. Paper money (purchased or made from construction paper), a play cash register, shopping bags and a bell to "ring for service", will add to the experience. Children pretend to shop at the store, try out the toys and select their favorites, and choose one to buy. Show the children how to exchange the amount of money shown on the price tag for the toy. Put the toy in a shopping bag and the child pretends to take it home.
FOR CHILDREN 6-9
Older children have more skills and experience and can therefore set up more elaborate stores, make signs and displays, and decorate using pictures from magazines. The store could be stocked with empty boxes and packaging that you save from food and other household products, and brown paper or plastic grocery bags could be reused to bag the purchases. The price tags can be taped to the products and should be realistic, but easy to count. An adding machine to make tape receipts will be fun for the "cashier" as well as make the play more realistic. Let children select things from the store to "buy". Teach children to count the change after making a purchase. Count change out loud together several times, and then let them try.
Teach children to count change a second time. Once in awhile, give back the wrong amount of change and see if the child catches your mistake.
Ideas for this article were adapted from Money$kills, 101 Activities to Teach Your Child About Money, Bonnie Drew, 1992.