Though numbers are covered in school, the practical application of math is often overlooked. Some call the concept of the teaching children how to handle money financial literacy. But another way to think of it is giving kids useable knowledge they can implement throughout their lifetimes. Multiplying numbers is fine, but unless they understand those numbers as concrete rather than abstract, it won’t mean much.
Teaching the adage “neither a borrower or a lender be” is a good place to start, but there are other ways to explain how money works in the real world. Here are 11 strategies you can employ to get your children a start on financial solvency before they know what the word means.
1. Piggy Banks
An old standard, but it’s still around because it works. Find a fun way for you kids to store their money, and they will.
2. The Grocery Game
When your kids are little, they mimic everyday activities. Pretend your kitchen is the grocery store, label your food item with a price on a sticky note and take turns being the grocer and the cashier.
3. The Grocery Game LIVE
Our kids grow up quickly, so consider the initial grocery game a first step. The next step is Grocery LIVE. Hand your kids a 5 or 10, and challenge them to see what food they can buy during the next grocery trip. Not only does it teach money savvy, it’s a lesson in food choices. They’ll soon see that carrots are a lot cheaper and go a lot further than gummy bears.
4. Grocery List Guessing
Most kids don’t understand the value of what they have – from food to clothes. A fun way to teach them cost-value is by giving each of them the week’s grocery list and have them label each item with a price. They total it up, and you come back with a receipt and see who is closest. You can even throw in a prize for the winner.
5. Collect Pennies
Remember how Gloria and Manny collect pennies together in “Modern Family”? When they first started, it was about survival, but it became a way for them to bond. Connect money to a positive experience, like collecting. Collect pennies for a month, toss them in a sorter, then explain the value of the savings.
6. Family Budget Planning
Family budgeting can be a chore, but your kids should understand it. Explain how budgeting works – what goes on the budget, how much each budget line gets and how much there is all together.
7. Share a Budget Line Item
Once they understand budgeting, offer them the opportunity to be in charge of one budgeted item. Make sure it’s a discretionary fund – like entertainment – then let them research price and spending for it.
It’s another old standard, but it gives kids the freedom to screw up. Small amounts add up, and that’s a lesson they can learn over time – after blowing their allowance once or twice.
9. Use Technology
Everything is a little easier for kids these days if there’s a digital screen to learn with, and finances are no exception. Games like “Unleash the Loot!” – a free app geared to ages 5-8 – teach both finance and conservation. For older kids, “Schmootz Happens” is a problem-solving game for money issues – it’s a lot more fun than it sounds, and it uses augmented reality, like Pokémon Go, to engage users. A few more to consider are:
- Bankaroo. This app is a virtual bank that helps kids keep track of their allowance.
- Motion Math: Cupcake. Encourage a budding entrepreneur with “Motion Math,” which lets see that the price of a cupcake is more than the ingredients.
- Renegade Buggies. Created for teens, in “Renegade Buggies” kids earn money by racing grocery buggies. Then, they must decide how to spend their winnings.
10. Play Board Games
Family game night is a wonderful chance to spend time with your children that doesn’t involve a screen. Another benefit? There are many games that naturally help kids understand money and finance. Consider these board games to teach your kids the value of a dollar:
- Game of Life. The Game of Life does exactly what it says – it teaches kids about life – and one aspect from life they should understand is how money works when you: forgo a degree, need a car or have kids. Be sure to get a new version – the price of a new car has nearly doubled in the last decade. Kids have fun careers, but they must balance a spy’s budget versus a doctor’s.
- Monopoly. There’s no hiding that Monopoly is a game of finance. Monopoly JR is available for younger kids, but shortening the game is also an option. Learn about how property investment works while forcing another family member to pay rent. It’s a win-win.
- The Allowance Game. A newer one on the market, The Allowance Game winner is the one who can save $20. Designed for younger kids, it’s a great one for the older ones in the family to explain to the youngers.
11. Give Knowledge Over Presents
As with any gift, time is more valuable than money. Use it to help your children well into the future by encouraging financial literacy. If there’s a gift better than hard-cash, it’s how to handle it.
Jennifer Landis is a 27-year-old healthy living blogger who loves yoga, running, and dancing it out with her toddler! You can find more from Jennifer at her blog, Mindfulness Mama, or by following her on Twitter: @jenniferelandis.