Garage sales help children learn about making change! I am an advocate of taking children to garage sales as there are few places in our lives where making change is used. Think about shopping with children and discussing the price of toys or other items they might want to buy. We tend to say, “That is about eight dollars.” We round off everything in our heads when in a store to have some idea of what the total will be at checkout. That helps adults as we already know how to make change. It isn’t very helpful for children just learning math and the value of coins. Real-life practice counting money is invaluable in math class, and as a teacher it was obvious to me that children who could count coins and make change were often ahead of classmates in math.


The first and second-grade classes I taught used to have a 99 cent garage sale. Each child used 99 cents of coins (plastic coins from the math manipulative supplies) and brought items to donate for the sale. We made price tags in class for the items. The day was fun and helped children realize there is a point to all the skip and coin counting we did in class. No one could spend over 99 cents so there was no rounding to the nearest dollar. Good practice!

Miss Owl’s Adventure Club with Robbinsdale Schools had a similar garage sale yesterday. She had to wait for her name to be called to go to the garage sale to help limit the number of shoppers at one time. This was very cleverly set up with every item costing a quarter. No one could spend over two dollars! Miss Owl could, therefore, purchase eight items. Her friend had a dollar and could buy four things. Such fun!

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Looking over the items at the garage sale, she found many things for Christmas. She asked about some of them, and decided on a stick with jingle bells.

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Most of the children ignored the clothing (which seemed like a good deal to me). One student I talked to was happy with her jeans just her size. She was buying her own clothing at the school garage sale! She said she was 10 or 12 years old.

most of the children seemed to ignore the clothing

Although she tried on the glasses, she decided this look was not for her and left the glasses for another lucky shopper.

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One younger girl showed me what she bought. It seems the earlier students were called to the shop, the better the pickings. Other children wanted their pictures taken but I didn’t have permission — so I told this girl I would just take a picture of one of her purchases.

the early shoppers had better pickings

It is summer and the perfect opportunity for children to create their own garage sales, and also shop at them. I encourage families to take advantage of such opportunities for learning and fun. Garage sales also help with reducing and recycling to help with climate change.

The apparel industry — particularly the inexpensive, runway-to-retail segment known as fast fashion — is known to wreak havoc on the environment. “The clothing industry is the second-largest polluter in the world, second only to the oil industry,” high-end retailer Eileen Fisher has famously said (and repeated, and written, and tweeted).

Second only to oil? Let’s recycle!

Miss Owl went to a free fishing clinic this summer too. Read more here!


Thank you for reading, Carolyn