Preschool is not too early to teach kids about money. Both of mine knew what a quarter and a penny was when they were two. It could be because pennies are a different color than the other coins, and those candy and toy machines only operate with quarters. All I know is I didn't teach them about those coins, so it must have come from using the money.
I am using our grocery shopping experience as a learning tool about money. I think the most effective teaching happens when a child can relate what they're learning to a real-life experience. My idea started by simply asking her what the numbers were on the posted prices while I'd shop. The next time I explained to her what the decimal point meant and which side meant dollars and which side meant cents. Over the next couple of months, I'm going to create a grocery shopping game. If, after reading this, you have any ideas on this please let me know. It's just my 'rough draft' so to speak, but I'm excited to get started on it with her.
Here's my plan (your child must have their number concepts down and be able to write most of their numbers before attempting this lesson):
In the produce section at our grocery store the prices are displayed in large numbers on the sides of the produce bins. I think these are perfect for teaching because they're large, and the produce section is spread out enough that she can move around without getting into anyone's way.
I'm going to start by giving her five cards with different prices on them. (I will do my research beforehand and make sure I have five prices actually displayed in the produce section.) Then, as we're shopping, I will ask her to match the prices on her cards to an actual fruit or vegetable with that price. For example, if apples are on sale for $1.25 a pound, I will help her write the word apples on her $1.25 card. To expand the lesson when we get home, we will draw or paste a picture of apples on the $1.25 card. I plan on doing this for a month, which equals about four times since I shop once a week.
After she has that skill down, I will give her five cards with a picture of a certain fruit or vegetable. Instead of matching prices, she will find that item and write down the price. I will include the $ . on the card so she knows where to put the numbers. I also plan on finding pictures of some of her favorite foods, such as Trix yogurt, and having her find the prices of those items.
For a more advanced grocery store game, and to teach the concept of less and fewer, you can date the cards and then compare prices from September to the prices found in February to see if it cost more to buy apples in September or February.
This grocery store game is easily adaptable to older children, and I plan on using it with my 3rd grader. You can give older children ten cards with an item printed on it, such as oatmeal, and have them find the prices. You can make it a real challenge by having them write down all the different prices for the various oatmeals and comparing how much you can save by buying one brand over another. You can also have them factor in coupons, once the price comparisons become too simple. Happy homeschooling!