Spending and saving

Foundation, KS1RE, Classroom ReflectionCross-curricular links
'What's money worth' support material for Foundation and lower Key Stage 1. A 'class shop' and 'class bank' provide classic role-play activities that familiarise young children with the idea of buying and selling, saving and spending.

Aims and objectives

  • To learn and rehearse the values of different coins in a real-life simulation
  • To consider and discuss the different values of items on sale
  • To learn about ‘saving’ money in a bank
  • To begin to understand how money can be earned by completing different tasks
  • To compare financial values with the worth of more abstract values


The ‘class shop’ provides a classic role-play activity that familiarises young children with the basic idea of buying and selling. The ‘class bank’ can be run as a separate activity or alongside the shop to replicate a simple closed economy of earning, saving and spending.

The role-play can then be used to develop discussion considering the value of intangible things that aren’t actually 'things' - for example, 'love’ - which might be even more important.


Any class shop will need a variety of ‘goods’ (or empty product containers) labelled with a range of prices. The goods can be purchased using a supply of coins available for every child. You will also need to have at least one ‘cash register’ and a large number of plastic coins.

Lesson introduction

Ask pupils what happens in shops, where coins and notes are used for buying and selling. Discuss what happens when someone wants to buy something. Explain that although many people today use cards when they go shopping, many others still prefer to use cash (notes and coins), and there are still some places where only cash is accepted (such as markets and boot fairs).

‘Show and tell’ a few of the items in the class shop, with their price labels, discussing why some products may be worth more than others. Even if children are too young to understand the concept of the value of coins, you can still talk about which items may be worth more or less.

Then show and discuss the different coins that will be used, noting the interchangeability of cash - the way ten copper pennies are worth the same as one silver 10p coin, and so on.

Explain the rules of your class shop. Say who will be using it and when, who will be ‘staff’ and who will be ‘customers’, and how much cash will be available for spending. Talk about the importance of honesty. Explain that this is only role-play, so children can’t really take home the things they 'buy' in the class.

Discuss how buying sometimes involves making hard choices. How much do I have to spend? Can I afford to buy the thing I really want, or will I have to buy something cheaper? Could I buy the thing I want in another shop, at a lower price? Learning to ask these questions is all part of growing up. Then run the shop over several days (or in different areas of the room, as appropriate).

(Note: SEN pupils may need further support in understanding the interchangeability of different denominations of coin. They may, for example, need further reinforcement work to show the different ways of making 10p or 20p using different coins.)

Extension 1: the class bank

Set up a play bank in which children can earn plastic coins or tokens for completing certain tasks each day (tasks as appropriate to the age, and at teacher’s discretion).

Encourage the children to save their tokens in a ‘bank’ (a different child could act as banker each day) over a set period of time. Then allow the children to withdraw what they have saved, to exchange for a small item or reward. (Children could know in advance what they are saving for and how much they need to save.)

Extension 2 (for older or more able children)

Different tasks could earn different amounts, depending on their level of difficulty or how time-consuming they are. Use either the shop or bank role play to encourage children to understand that people don't have an endless supply of money and we can’t have everything. We have to make choices about how to spend our money - or about whether we might share it with others.

Development (for plenary discussion and display)

After a few days (or in a different area), place labelled pictures showing concepts such as love, joy (happiness), and kindness. Talk about whether we can put a value on these things, whether we can buy them in a shop, what they are worth, and so on.

  • How could we show that we value these things?
  • Can we save them up and store them?
  • Can they be shared?
  • Could they be spoilt, lost or wasted?
  • Can they be grown or created?

You could extend this discussion in Religious Education by exploring different faith-inspired notions of what constitutes ‘treasure’. Consider Jesus’ idea that there are some types of treasure that are worth much more than others (such as love, joy, kindness and peace). They are important for everybody to have and are less likely to be lost or stolen or damaged.

Jesus said: 'Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also' (Matthew 6:19-21).

Additional activity for art and craft

Have a go at coin rubbing, using different media - for example, wax crayons, pencil crayons, pencils, paint, chalk and charcoal. (NB: Young children find this difficult, as the coin moves around. Try fixing it to the table with sticky tack so that it does not move so easily.)

Turn some of the rubbings into works of art by cutting out the images created and using them to spell out words such as 'cash’ or 'money’, or creating larger composite images.

Some children may need help to use scissors.


Piggy bank © Marco Verch licensed under CC BY 2.0 / cropped