By Micky Afnan, Educator and Creator of the Table-Time Look & Learn tablecloth

It is likely your child will be chanting the numbers on the 100's chart each day in their classroom.  Eventually they will learn to count by 10's and then 5's.  Using nickels and dimes to develop this competency is a great way to go. However, before your child is ready to tackle that approach, there needs to be a more basic introduction to understanding money as a measurement.

First, children's observation skills need to be developed.  This can be accomplished by sorting.  Children are intrigued by separating buttons into groups according to color, size, or design.  In school children use attribute blocks - small geometric shapes that can be divided by their color, shape, size, or thickness.

I'm sure you have already seen your child arrange toys:  for example,  red cars are lined up together and trucks in another spot.  Humans seem to be hardwired for classifying and categorizing.

After many sorting experiences, it may be time to let your child manage money - not your checking account, but a few real coins for the purpose of comparing and contrasting the distinct features of each.  Begin by allowing your child to have "free play" - a common strategy used by teachers when introducing a new learning tool.  They may recognize their real coins as there are similar shaped and colored coins on the Mostly Math tablecloth. Good observation!

After a while you may notice your child separating the coins by their likenesses and differences.  Then engage in conversation leading your child to explain why they arranged the coins as they did.  Their rationale and description may reveal how well their powers of observation are developing.

At some point, direct the child's attention to the coins drawn on the the Table-Time cloth to see if they can match-up the different coins to their Table-Time versions and identifying each by name - "penny," nickel," "dime."  Your child can also practice counting - how many pennies (10), nickels (5), and dimes (5).

Finally, how can we teach the relative value of each coin?  This step is more abstract, so do what children love to do - "play store" - a most fun way to help grasp and understand the coin's worth.

Set up a scenario where your child can "purchase" - let's say - 1 grape for 1 penny. You might add a sale sign:  Grapes on Special - 1 cent each.  When your child catches on to the pennies, introduce the nickel.  Now they have a choice - 5 pennies or 1 nickel - and hopefully they will experience an "ah ha" moment when they discover that they can buy the same amount of grapes with either set.  This must mean a nickel is equivalent to 5 pennies!

When you sense your child is ready, expand using 10 pennies, 2 nickels and a dime.

Before you know it, your child will be able to do all the shopping and run the family finances!!!!!