Become a "Coin Archaeologist"

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What You Need:

  • Four or five of each: pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters
  • Four index cards
  • Transparent tape
  • Magnifying glass
  • Small sand pail, whipped topping tub, or bowl
  • 1–2 cups of fine sand
  • Old, but clean make-up brush
  • Several sheets of tracing paper or newsprint
  • Crayon stubs, paper wrapping removed

What You Do:

  1. "Discover" like a real archaeologist! Place the sand in the sand pail or tub, and then bury the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters in it. Invite your child to sift through the sand to find each coin, and then use the makeup brush to sweep away the sand so the coin is clean.
  2. Now see if your child can sort the coins and identify them. The copper colors will stand out easily as a match; the others can line up by size. Can your child name each one? Help out if she's not sure—this is, after all, a great time for discovery.
  3. Label each index card with one coin name such as "Penny - 1 cent" and so forth. Put two of each coin on each index card, one heads up, one tails up.
  4. Once the coins are categorized and labeled, allow your child to use a magnifying glass to make observations. What kinds of symbols, numbers, and pictures are on the coins? How is a penny different from a nickel? A nickel from a dime? A dime from a quarter? Discuss your child's findings. You can also have her write her observations on the back of the index card for reference.
  5. When all the coins have been sorted and examined by your child, it's time for some permanent record keeping. Have your child place coins one at a time under a piece of tracing paper or newsprint and firmly rub over it with the broad side of the crayon. Some should be rubbed heads up; some tails up.
  6. Once the coins have been “rubbed,” each real coin can be matched to its rubbing...and finally, each rubbing can be permanently attached to its card.

Want to help build lifetime familiarity with money? Stick the cards on a wall in your child's room, and refer to them every time the tooth fairy arrives, or chore money gets discussed. If your child is like most kids, you can expect money to be profoundly interesting for many years to come!

For added fun, sing while you learn. Use the old familiar tune “The Farmer in the Dell” with the following lyrics to get your child singing for his money:

Name the Coins Song

A penny is worth one, A nickel is worth five, A dime is worth ten cents, A quarter's twenty-five!

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