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‘Cents and Sensibility’ Teaches Families Financial Literacy at Please Touch Museum

The first new permanent exhibit in a decade teaches kids important concepts and inspires family conversation about money, giving, and responsibility.

How do you make a dollar? How can you use that dollar to make more money? How can you use it to help others? These are just some of the questions that the Please Touch Museum’s new financial literacy exhibit poses to its young guests and their caretakers.


“Cents and Sensibility” is the museum’s first new permanent exhibit in a decade, and signals the museum’s moving into the future and continued commitment to teaching modern kids in our STEM-focused and interconnected world. “The idea to create an exhibit centered around playful learning about money stemmed from our deep understanding that this is something that will meet a need for today’s children and their families,“ said Please Touch Museum President and CEO Patricia D. Wellenbach.


The new exhibit simplifies money matters into three main uses for money: spending, saving, and sharing. Kids can learn how to make a budget and differentiate between “wants” and “needs” when deciding how to allocate their funds. A collaborative magnetic money maze lets kids guide balls around to decide where their money will go.


Understanding the value of a dollar and the nature of commerce is also addressed in fun and kinetic ways. Kids can visit the dollars and cents scale to develop different combinations with money to make the dollar balance, or play hopscotch to add up to a dollar. Also on the floor, the lunch trade—this basic act of trading snacks helps teach ideas of “currency,” value, and utility.

In addition to personal saving and spending, the exhibit understands money on a larger scale, tackling concepts of investment and charity. Using a giant Plinko board—where kids drop their play money in and it randomly lands to make or lose money—shows risk and the stochastic nature of investing.


Meanwhile, be sure to bring your real pennies, because the middle of the room allows kids to drop money into an elaborate bank, and at the end of the month all the money collected will go to a different charity displayed on the “Giving Feels Good” graphic.

The museum plans to include programming that complements “Cents and Sensibility” throughout the museum, including a drop-in dramatic puppet show, storytimes, and art projects in the Creative Arts Studio.


“Cents and Sensibility” is a natural next step both for the Please Touch Museum and the exhibit’s sponsor PNC. The bank’s “Grow Up Great” initiative will turn 15 this year, and you no doubt have participated in its family outreach, from free monthly Kimmel Center concerts to Sesame Street-themed media teaching these basic concepts to toddlers, and so much more.


“The Please Touch Museum is the perfect venue for this because we’re trying to, in the community, educate people about money, from youngsters to adults… There are a lot of lessons tied up in this little room,” Joe Meterchick, PNC regional president, told us at the exhibit preview. It was very important to both the bank and the museum that the exhibit demystified the concepts for all ages, as well as included the charity component so kids could learn about giving back.

Meanwhile, as signaled from their rebrand last year, the Please Touch Museum has committed itself to educating, inspiring, and including today’s kids. While their classic exhibits like the Alice in Wonderland maze and massive water play area aren’t going anywhere, the increased focus on STEAM programming and the “Year of the Global Child” initiative reveal a Please Touch Museum that is looking to the future. In a way, the new financial literacy exhibit goes hand-in-hand with the museum’s increasingly multicultural offerings in terms of celebrations and exhibits too—realizing the child of the 21st Century is growing up in a more global, interconnected, and science-based world.


The hope is also that these topics that affect us all can inspire interesting conversations between the generations. Whether it’s discussing charity in “Cents and Sensibility,” celebrating individuality at Drag Queen Storytime, or thinking beyond ourselves in the upcoming “A to Z: America to Zanzibar” exhibit about Muslim cultures around the world, these are discussions that can start early and help kids frame and understand what is happening right now.

The Please Touch Museum is located at 4231 Avenue of the Republic in Philadelphia. “Cents and Sensibility” is now open, located on the lower level, and included with the price of admission.



Photographs by Laura Swartz.

Contributing Writer