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Teaching kids about money is something that my husband and I are always discussing.
Even though we have a preschooler and a toddler, it’s always important to talk to kids about things that will effect their lives in the future. We are big believers in starting healthy habits early, for us, that includes learning about finances. Of course, I’m not saying to have your kids sit down and balance your check book (yet – ha!). Instead, we came up with a fun list of things to do with little ones right now that teaches kids that we care about them and having fun, but that we care about their future, too.
Use Real Money
What really rattled me was when my daughter saw something and said, “just put it on the card.” Since she was a preschooler at the time, I knew that I needed to make money more concrete instead of something we just “put on a card.” We started using cash for purchases revolving around the kids and only used our cards for gas and groceries so that we could still get our rewards (however, it’s important to note that we pay off our credit cards every month).
Wait to Buy
You know how you’re in the grocery store and kids can’t wait to open up that bag of animal cookies? My two year old has been known to put his hand in the apple bag and start munching away in the grocery cart, but as they grow, teach kids to wait until after you pay. It delays gratification and teaches them that a transaction has to happen before you “own” something or that something becomes “yours.”
Tip : Play i-spy while you wait to check out!
Play Games about Money
Monopoly come to mind? This is a fun way to get kids talking about and working with money without any stress. Let your oldest kids be the banker (even if it takes longer), to really learn about money values.
Get a Pretend Cash Register
My kids love their register. Getting acquainted with a cash register and playing with pretend money is just as important as earning real money. Let them tag some of their favorite toys in the house with price tags to challenge older kids to open their own store!
Say “Bye Bye” Piggy Bank
Piggy banks can be adorable, but it’s important for kids to see the money that their earning and saving. Instead of a piggy bank, use clear plastic containers or glass jars (we use mason jars), so that kids can see their earnings. Make a line on the jars to set a visual goal of how much to earn before they can buy something!
Red Light, Green Light
Now that you’ve got clear jars instead of a piggy bank, label three jars with red, yellow, and green. Red is for “Giving” to others (red means stop, don’t touch this money), yellow is for “saving” (yellow means wait, don’t use this money yet), and green is for “spending” (green means go, use it when you’re ready). Using colors that even preschoolers understand the meaning too are a great way to help them understand what to do with their money jars.
Learn to Window Shop
Both of my kids know that when we go into a toy store, it’s very unlikely that we’ll walk out of the store with something to take home. Since they were babies, they’ve gone inside to look at toys, play with them, and then set them back on the shelf. Teaching kids to window shop also teaches them to go to a store with purpose. If we do buy something, it’s always for a reason (to buy a friend’s birthday present most often) or because they have the money to spend themselves.
Tip: take in a kid’s camera for them to take pictures of what they love the most. This is another way to delay gratification and teach them to save up!
Mark up Magazines
My daughter’s favorite thing to do is to flip through magazines and circle what she’d love to buy. It’s an easy way to know what they want for birthdays or future gifts, but it also is a fun way to teach them about value. Let them guess what they think each item they circled cost and challenge them to save up for their favorite one!