Most habits and routines in our home are intentional and planned, but the snack shop was not. It started out as a fun hands-on one time math lesson for Hunter almost a year ago. I gave him a dollar and a homemade menu and he purchased his snack(s) for the morning while we discussed coin values and making change. He enjoyed it more than I anticipated and requested that we repeat the routine the next day. A weekend came and went and both of us forgot about the fun snack shop until a month or two ago when he looked at me with eyes laced with hints of nostalgia and said, “mom, can we do the snack shop again?”
As I thought about it, I realized the snack shop could be a really fun and educational routine in our home. We began doing it almost every morning between 10:00am and 11:00am. Here is how it works: Using a container of loose change to hold my coins, I “pay” my older two kids (9 and 11) $1.00 and my younger two (3 and 5) 0.10. The menu is written up on a small white board and changes periodically based on the availability of the items listed. For my menu items, I stick to basic things that I almost always have on hand and foods that are quick and easy. I have two columns of prices, one for the older kids and one for the younger kids. I have a variety of price ranges for the older kids to allow them the opportunity to use different coin values. I often price anything sugary higher than the healthy options and limit the purchases to one.
I began by giving my younger boys ten pennies (counting them out loud) and stuck with that until they were very familiar with the routine. Later I began giving my 5 year old his pennies two at a time so we could practice counting by twos allowing my 3 year old to listen in and learn as well. Recently I introduced the dime to my younger two. I give them a dime and then they trade it in for 10 pennies and then begin to make their purchases. I plan to continue with the dime concept for another month or so until I feel they really have the idea solidified in their mind that one dime is equal to ten pennies. After that, I will give them two nickels and we will trade those in for ten pennies and then later I will give them one dime which we will trade for 2 nickels which will then be traded for 10 pennies.
For my older two, I started out giving them four quarters and then later we moved to ten dimes and next twenty nickels or a combination of coins to equal one dollar. We exchange coins as needed and I often have one older child take the order for the other older child (double checking the accuracy of the money and at times also writing down the order). In a few months we will begin working on making change for each other.
The beauty of this routine is that is is quick, fun and repetitive. Ashlyn has already shown a great improvement in her coin recognition and usage. Over time their confidence will continue to grow and as it does I can change the complexity to add new elements of challenge (such as raising the prices to include paper money or adding tax or tip percentages). Aside from the teaching value, it also has simplified snack time because the items offered are so easy.
A few notes:
-Each child has a small plastic container with their name on it for their snack money. If they don’t spend all their money it is saved for the next day. The money cannot be used for anything besides snacks.
-After we handle the money we wash our hands before eating.
-I have a “daily special” that typically includes something that I know I won’t have on hand very long such as banana bread.
-After our snack shop “closes,” my kids don’t get any other snacks before lunch to simplify eating and to reinforce the value of making good choices (such as when they buy something sugary and most of their money is used up so they don’t get to buy as much food and get hungry sooner).
I hope this idea is helpful for you and your kids enjoy “snack shop” as much as mine do!