These 7 games to play with fake money will teach your kids, either at home or in the classroom, some great money lessons.

While I always say putting real money into your kid’s and students’ hands is the best way to get them to learn how to manage it, it certainly is not always practical.

Fake money works well, too!two kids playing card game on couch, text overlay "7 games to play with fake money kids and teens"

I’ve got some really fun ideas for games to play with fake money below, separated out by whether they’d make good games to play at home, or good money games for the classroom.

Games to Play with Fake Money at Home

Have a set of fake money at home? Great! Let me give you some ways to use that currency with your kids so that they’ll both have fun AND learn some money lessons.

#1: Hold a Family Auction

What can an auction teach your child about money?

Well, it really helps with understanding supply and demand (you’ll likely only have one item each, and they’ll need to figure out how much they WANT the item by voting with their fake dollars).

It also helps with sales and marketing skills, as your kiddos will be taking turns trying to get the highest bids on whatever they’re putting up to auction off.

Did I mention that auctions are pretty fun, too?

This game with fake money can be played using a few different kinds of items:

  • Items you buy from the store (even the dollar store!) to auction off
  • Items your kids each want to auction off from their belongings
  • Services/treats/rewards you auction off (such as a ticket good for 15 minutes of video game play)

You’ll need to decide how much fake money each family member gets, and how they actually get that money.

For example, you could have them earn the money from doing chores around the house, or you could give out the same amount of money to each person and see how they decide to spend it.

It’s up to you.

#2: Create a Dinner Drive-Thru

I snagged this awesome idea from the television show My Five Wives.

Basically, you want to set up a drive-thru dinner using a window from your kitchen that opens up to an outside patio or area where your kids can come up and “order” food from you.

You’ll create a menu of items that you can make ahead of time – 2 choices or so for each category of food you’re serving would be great – and then give your kids a certain amount of fake money to play.

For dinner, they get to go outside, come up to your drive-thru window, and order from your menu. Then, they pay with their fake money.

Some ideas of foods that would work well here:

  • Main Dishes: Macaroni and cheese (I just LOVE to make this butternut squash mac’n cheese for our family), cheeseburgers, chicken salad sandwiches, etc.
  • Side Dishes: Broccoli with cheese sauce, side salad, French fries, guacamole with chips, etc.
  • Desserts: Ice-cream (pay by the scoop!), brownie (whipped cream is extra!), etc.

Have fun with this!

For example, if you have a bunch of kids, you can do this on two different nights and have each kid team-up with you in the kitchen one night, then be a customer the next night.

And when they come up to the window, pretend like you’re taking their order. Be sure to have some fake money to make change with.

Pssst: worried you’ll be leftover with a bunch of food? Cook everything with the idea in mind to eat the leftovers for tomorrow night’s dinner.

#3: Play Monopoly with Financial Hardships

Monopoly money is probably the most recognizable pretend money out there – and so is the game.

But playing Monopoly as a money lesson? Well, I found the idea kind of…lacking.

So, I created a free printable that will help you to give your Monopoly play a boost. Each player receives a financial hardship at the beginning of the game.

Hardships are from real life, and include things like:

  • Having a low credit score
  • Having a pile of student loans
  • Trying to start up a business
  • Getting laid off

In addition to the traditional rules of Monopoly play remain, whichever financial hardship card you get, you have to follow those added rules as well.

For example, if your financial hardship is having a pile of student loans, then for your first two rounds of the board, you have to pay half of the cost of each property you land on (which goes to the bank to pay off your student loans).

#4: Construction Foreman on a Lego Build

Got some Lego sets hanging around?

Great! Let’s turn them into a money lesson.

You’ll want to download a Lego building plan – one with instructions that include the number of Lego pieces needed.

Here are several Lego building projects with free printables:

  • Printable Lego Challenge Cards: What I like about using these is that your child needs to limit what they build with the fake money they have to spend. Very much a real-life scenario we deal with in our own projects and budgets!
  • Marble Run: This one can be as huge or as small as your child’s capabilities and imagination (and budget!).
  • Bridge Building Challenge: Give them the size that the bridge needs to be (just choose two tabletops and let them know that the bridge must be able to hold X object or X pounds in order to be completed).

Next up, you’ll need to gather a bunch (or all) of your household’s Legos. Divide them into categories by size, shape, or color.

Then, assign a money amount for each brick, and include a post-it note or sign that indicates pricing. For example, you could have red bricks, blue bricks, and gray bricks, and price them $0.25, $0.05, and $0.10 each.

You’ll give the project over to your Construction Foreman (aka, your kids!), as well as some fake money as their project budget. Instruct them that they must complete the project at or below budget, as well as what a “completed” project is supposed to look like.

As the Construction Foreman, your child will be in charge of:

  • Spending the fake money to get the bricks they need
  • Building the project to spec
  • Substituting and coming up with alternative ideas for when they run out of money on “building supplies” (aka, Legos)

After setting this up and letting your child buy their brick needs, sit back and watch their minds work within the budget constraints they’ve been given!

Psst: got a cash register with fake money? Check out these best cash register games for kids.

Games to Play with Fake Money at School

Are you a teacher or homeschooler and you’d like to find games to play with fake money for your students?

I’ve got a few ideas for you.

#1: Stock Market Game Competition

There are lots of free online stock market games your students can get involved in that I’ve hunted down for you here.

What I would suggest to make playing them a bit more “real” is to actually give fake money to your students to mirror their investing.

Several of the stock market games let your kids start off with $100,000 in virtual money.

While you likely don’t have $100,000 in virtual money hanging around, you can take the game down to size by making $100,000 = $1,000, and $1,000 = $100, and $100 = $10, and $10 = $1.

As the teacher, you can be the stock market broker for the overall class, or you can choose a stock market broker per group of students. As students make investment choices, they’ll pay the broker in their pretend money.

Once a month or once a week (depends on how long you run the stock market game), your students can reconcile with the broker and see how much money they have left to invest, how much they’ve lost, etc.

#2: Construction Foreman Lego Build Competition

Your students are going to be Construction Foreman, and will work in groups to create a Lego project.

It’ll be the same Lego project for one classroom, and the group who is able to come in the most under budget (while meeting all the specs) will win.

Each group gets their own set of fake money to buy “construction supplies” (aka, the Lego bricks or other building blocks).

You’ll want to divide up the Lego bricks by shapes or colors, and charge a certain amount for each.

Here are several Lego building projects with free printables:

  • Printable Lego Challenge Cards: What I like about using these is that your child needs to limit what they build with the fake money they have to spend. Very much a real-life scenario we deal with in our own projects and budgets!
  • Marble Run: This one can be as huge or as small as your child’s capabilities and imagination (and budget!).
  • Bridge Building Challenge: Give them the size that the bridge needs to be (just choose two tabletops and let them know that the bridge must be able to hold X object or X pounds in order to be completed).

Hint: You’ll want to build the project you choose out, by yourself, to make sure you give them enough fake money and price the bricks an amount that they’ll be able to complete the project.

One student or the teacher can be the retailer who sells the bricks to each group.

#3: Classroom Auction Day

If you have a classroom reward system that earns students some sort of printable play money, you can play a classroom auction game at the end of each semester, or even at the end of each school year.

OR, if you’re teaching economics? Then this is an excellent way your kids can experience supply and demand in person.

There are two ways you can do a classroom auction day:

  • You, the teacher, are the Auctioneer
  • Your students each take a turn as the Auctioneer

With students as auctioneer, you would ask each of them to bring in something they’d like to auction off for pretend money. Display these items ahead of time so that everyone in the class can get an idea of what they’d like to bid on.

Psst: items don’t have to be new, or anything costly. But remind your students that if they can figure out something other kids will really want – in high demand – then they’ll earn more fake money to then bid on items they want.

Each student can set a minimum amount they’ll take, or the rules can be they’ll have to accept what they are given.

They’ll quickly understand a few things from taking a turn auctioning off an item:

  • How to “sell” a product, or make people want it more
  • How much their item/product is really worth to others
  • How their product sizes up to the competition (other students’ items)

If you’re the auctioneer? Then you’ll want to come up with a variety of items and coupons/services for students to bid on (you can ask for donations, too).

Items ideas include:

  • Books
  • Set of post-it notes
  • Pens/pencils
  • Deck of Uno cards
  • Free library pass
  • 10-Minute Lunch Extension
  • 10-Minute Recess Extension
  • Class helper for the day

I hope I've given you some great games to play with fake money that you can use at home, or in the classroom. Choose one from above, and let the money lessons begin!

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, a 2016 Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Money Prodigy. Amanda's kid money work has been featured on Experian, GoBankingRates, PT Money, CA.gov, Rockstar Finance, the Houston Chronicle, and Colonial Life. Read more here.