Using Currency to Teach Kids about Foreign Cultures

| August 14, 2016 | 0 Comments

foreign currencyDo you have a small stash of foreign currency stashed away somewhere—leftover coins and bills from trips you’ve taken around the world?

One great way to pass your travels onto your children, so to speak, is to let them explore foreign cultures through those currencies. Kids are naturally drawn to the differences between international currencies, and showing them your currency collection can make for a fun lesson about the places around the world where you’ve been.

Here is a look at how you can use your currency collection to teach your kids about different cultures around the world. (Don’t have a large collection of foreign currencies? Simply print and cut out images from the web!)

Learn about a country’s most famous individuals.

Many currencies feature portraits of famous individuals from that country’s history. U.S. currency, for example, features presidents and prominent politicians who were central to the founding of the United States. Japanese currency, as this article details, features portraits of famous scientists and writers. Danish currency, meanwhile, features the current monarch Queen Margrethe II on its coins.

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Use the currency to study historic figures from different countries and discuss with your kids why those particular individuals might have been included on the country’s currency. Studying the famous figures on a country’s currency can also give you insights about that country’s government.

Study the clothing people are wearing.

Since so many currencies feature depictions of famous figures, you and your kids can also study the clothing that these people are wearing.

Children holding globeThis can teach your kids about traditional clothing found around the world and give them a small look at different clothing styles that are worn around the world.

Learn about famous sites and landmarks in a country.

Many currencies also feature depictions of famous sites and landmarks within their respective countries. If you take a look at Egyptian banknotes, for example, you’ll primarily find images of various mosques located around the country.

If you study Russian ruble banknotes, meanwhile, you’ll find images of various churches, buildings, and architectural achievements. This can help your children identify which landmarks people most often associate with a country, as well as study what makes those landmarks so significant to that country’s people.

Discuss what a country values.

This is another simple lesson that you can teach your children. Study what is depicted on various currencies from around the world and discuss with your kids what that might say about that country’s culture and values.

Not all currencies depict solely historic figures and famous landmarks. Indian rupee banknotes, for example, showcase different animals that are indigenous to the region, as well as depictions of historic events. Swiss franc banknotes, meanwhile, feature various works of art, as well as—surprisingly enough—imagery of sites in the foreign countries of India and Italy.

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So in addition to studying the things that are included on a country’s currency, discuss with your kids what those inclusions might say about the country’s values.

Study foreign languages and writing systems.

Foreign currency can also give you and your kids an inside look at the most common language(s) that a country uses. Have your kids try to find the name of the country written in the foreign language, or the numeral that signifies what denomination the coin or banknote is.

See if there are multiple languages printed on the coins and banknotes. (Many currencies will include both the local language and English.) The Indian rupee even has its value printed in 17 languages!

Compare shape, size, and color.

It’s also just fun to simply compare the shapes, sizes, and colors of a country’s coins and banknotes. Some currencies, for example, have coins that are pentagonal or hexagonal. Some currencies have coins with holes in them.

Canada once even manufactured colored coins. Many currencies have banknotes that are different sizes depending on the value, and most have banknotes printed in an array of colors.

Try comparing the different denominations of coins and banknotes and then lining them up in order from smallest value to largest value.

Have them create their own fictional currency.

Once you and your kids have studied a diverse assortment of international currencies, it’s fun to let them create their own fictional currency. You might have them imagine that there is going to be a coin minted for your city, and it is up to them to design it.

They can choose a prominent figure (personal or public) for the front of their coin, and then choose something symbolic for the back. This is a great way to help your kids gain appreciation for their own culture.

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