Assess the children’s readiness to work with real coins. If you have preschoolers who still mouth a number of the items they come in contact with, using real coins may present a choking hazard. In this case, simply glue a penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and dollar coin to a board and let the children create a number of rubbings of the coins. Cut out the rubbings and work with them instead of the real thing.
Separate your preschoolers into pairs. Dump a small sack of mixed coins on the table in front of them. Offer each pair a sorting paper that shows rubbings of the front and back of the various coins. Instruct the children to sort the coins and place them next to the rubbings that represent them. This is an easy activity that encourages children to handle the money, familiarize themselves with the size and design differences, and also provides opportunities for competitive play in the form of races. Pairs may compete against one another in sorting.
Once the preschoolers understand the different looks of the coins and also know what to name them, it is time to explain their relationships to one another. You may accomplish this with stacking activities. Teach that one nickel equals five pennies. Have the children sort five pennies and stack them on top of one nickel. Repeat this lesson with the other coins. Reinforce the learning by playing a coin exchange game.
Use dice, and a large amount of coins in the middle of the desk. You may play this game in a small group or pair up the children. During each turn, a child may roll the die and the number shown determines the number of pennies the child may take from the pile. Children need to exchange pennies for the higher denomination as soon as they are able. In other words, if a child amasses five pennies after rolling a two and a three, s/he should exchange them for a nickel; once s/he has two nickels, s/he needs to request a dime. The winner is the player, who first requests a quarter.
Save cardboard boxes from cereal, tea, and other groceries; it is a good idea to enlist the parents’ help in this, because if all parents send some boxes, you can erect your classroom store virtually overnight. The children may shop at the store with their coins. Clearly mark each box with a certain coin value. Some values may be easy -- such as five pennies or two dimes -- but some should be a bit harder, such as one penny, two dimes, and a nickel.