I have two kids (and a third on the way). I’ve recently begun to teach my four-year-old son a little about money. He’s a bright child – and he’s very aware of his surroundings. He likes to ask questions and he’s pretty good about applying what he’s learned in one setting to the questions faced in another.
Kids ages 3 – 5
More or Less Game – I ask my son questions like, “Which is more, 8 or 2?” and “Which is less, 55 or 79?”. He can count to 100 (sometimes he needs a bit of help) and he’s really learning to understand the idea that there are larger and smaller numbers. This simple concept – more or less – can help a small child to understand that different products cost different amounts. The bubble gum costs ‘less’ than the bicycle.
How Many Would It Take Game – I’ll ask my son, who loves Kit-Kat candies, “How many Kit-Kat packs would it take to equal 8 Kit-Kat bars?”. Since the Kit-Kat bars come 4 per pack, the answer is 2. He can use his fingers and learn a little bit about multiplication and division. I also use this technique when measuring water for a recipe. If the recipe calls for 1 cup of water, I’ll use the 1/4 cup measuring cup. Then, I’ll ask my son to count as I pour the water from the measuring cup to the mixing bowl. This begins the process of learning about fractions.
Help Cook Game – When I use the microwave, my son loves to punch in the numbers. He will punch in, say 35 seconds, and then stand back and countdown the seconds. As he does so, he’s learning how to move from a big number to a small number – simple subtraction. Once in a while, I’ll stop the microwave, with about 3 seconds left, and ask him to figure out how many seconds have already gone by and how many are left. He’s getting really good at finding the answers, especially if the starting time is less than 30 seconds. This simple subtraction concept will help teach him to ‘make change’.
Count By Game – This one is simple. We use pennies, nickels, and dimes – and I teach him to count by ones, fives, and tens. But, even though this one is simple – it teaches him much more than ‘counting by’ skills. He is learning, again, that different coins have different values. He’s learning that a smaller item – like the dime – might actually have more value than a larger item – like the nickel, or even the penny. He’s learning that 2 nickels = 1 dime and that 5 pennies = 1 nickel. All of these lessons, when combined, leave the child with better grasps of several concepts.
Toy Shop – My kids have dozens of toys, dolls, balls, jump ropes, and cars. I’ll grab a handful of dollar bills and some change – and gather ten of their favorite toys – and setup a ‘toy shop’. Each toy will have a price and my son will be given a certain amount of money. He then gets to pretend to buy and sell his toys. I’ll play the game with him, or just leave him to play by himself or with his sister. Right now, he’s not quite ready to grasp all of the concepts need for fluid transactions, but he is learning how to count, how to add, how to subtract, and how to figure out which items cost ‘more’. Plus, he’s learning some basic negotiation skills.
What about you? Do you have some games or techniques that you use to teach your young children about money? At what age do you think parents should start talking to their children about money? Do you wish that your parents had spent more time talking to (not at!) you about money? I’d love to read your comments.