Modeling responsible financial behaviors goes a long way toward teaching kids about money. But there are also some wonderful age-appropriate resources and activities you can use to make the lessons more fun.
What’s the best way to raise your kids to know the value of a dollar?
For the youngest children, a general introduction to the concept of money is key.
- Talk about different pieces of currency and their specific values, and begin to identify items that cost money.
- Explain to children that money is earned by working; point out people in your community working various jobs.
- There’s some great hands-on activities you can use to help young children develop a more concrete understanding of cash.
- Start including your child in small shopping decisions, such as which apples do they think you should buy, and why. Think aloud during the bigger ones to demonstrate the thought process that goes into every purchase.
- For older children, a small allowance is a great teaching tool. You can use that money to start teaching about the importance of budgeting your money for spending, saving and sharing (i.e. a charity or church organization). Open up an interest-bearing savings account for your child, or clearly separate the money at home.
Make a game of it
Classic board games, online adventures and even apps are great teaching tools that make learning fun. Here are few that focus on finance:
- Monopoly (or Monopoly Junior) is perhaps the most iconic board game. Buying and selling houses, collecting rent and paying taxes — all of these activities can help children learn to count money and make financial decisions. Monopoly Junior simplifies the game somewhat, and takes place in a kid-friendly amusement park. Ages 5+.
- Payday challenges players to manage their money and teaches them to understand how volatile personal income can be. Each trip through the board — which resembles a calendar — represents one month, full of financial bonuses, such as winning the lottery, and financial pitfalls, such as extra bills or bad investments. Play as many months as you like; whoever has the most money at the end wins. Ages 8+.
- Save! The Game is a free app available for the iPhone and iPad that teaches the real rewards of saving through a 3-D adventure game. The game helps children learn the difference between needs and wants — an important early lesson. Ages 4+.
Older children might also enjoy one of the many online activities available that teach about money.
- ThreeJars —This website helps children manage their allowance money by sorting it into virtual jars dedicated to saving, spending and sharing. Membership is free for life if you sign up by March 31. Ages 8+.
- Channel One: Credit Card Simulator — For teenagers, a credit card simulation demonstrates the consequences of running up one’s bill by allowing users to go on virtual shopping sprees — and then showing them the bill (and the interest). This site provides various other resources that teach credit management. Ages 14+.
Financially savvy stories
Is your child a big reader? Storytime provides another great opportunity to subtly impart some basic financial wisdom in a way kids will enjoy and understand. Here are a few options.
- “Rock, Brock, and the Savings Shock,” by Sheila Bair. This book teaches young readers the importance of learning to handle money by telling the story of twin brothers Rock and Brock who make very different decisions with allowance received from their grandfather. One brother spends, while the other saves and manages to amass a large sum. The book includes an explanatory section about cash accumulation, compound interest and how to save. Ages 7+.
- “Money Mama & The Three Little Pigs,” by Lori Mackey. This book teaches responsible money management with lessons about the importance of giving, investing, saving and spending wisely. Colorful illustrations are sure to captivate your young reader. Ages 4+.
- “Finance for Kidz,” series by Prakash Dheeriya. This book, aimed at slightly older children, pairs stories about a variety of real world money issues — checking accounts, borrowing, budgeting, etc. — with worksheets and discussion topics to promote more critical thinking about finance. Ages 10+.
Building a strong financial foundation is a great way to get your children started on a life free from major money woes.
Photo courtesy theritters