Parenting is a Journey
An Adventure of Discovery Not Only of our Children But of Ourselves as Well
It’s never too early to start learning about money.
Planning and problem solving, staying focused and waiting for what they want are some of the skills and attitudes that children can work on from a very early age. Here are some activities for early childhood to get children started on the road to learning about money:
You can use a real piggy bank and real money, or draw some paper coins and paper piggy banks for children to play simple matching and sorting games.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website has a free sheet on this that includes four drawings of pigs that can be cut out and used to sort money into.
Older toddlers can sort shapes and put them into buckets: a big bucket to put small shapes into and a small bucket to put big shapes into. The sorting will challenge their inclination to put like with like, requiring them to use their selective attention and working memory.
The CFPB recommends sorting coins in different ways. One piggy bank could be labeled with the values of the coins: 1¢, 5¢, 10¢ and 25¢. Another piggy bank can be labeled to sort the coins by size from smallest to largest. A third can sort them by colors: copper, silver with ridges, silver with no ridges. Coins can also be sorted by year and design.
Take turns with your child sorting coins. Listen to how they explain their thinking and how they get through the exercise to sort each coin. That’s more important than getting the “right” answer every time.
For older children, help them add up the coins to get different combinations to $1, 50¢ or a quarter.
As part of this exercise, talk to your children about what money is and how it’s an object used to buy things. Money can be printed bills or minted coins. Discuss how money has changed and how long ago, people traded items like shells, beads and pieces of metal.
Pretending is a common activity that teaches young children how to develop thoughts, attitudes and behaviors for a foundation they’ll use later for their financial well-being.
From age 3 on, children can start to understand that money is used to purchase things, that money is earned by working and that you can save money and wait to buy things later.
Start a pretend play activity around money by going on a pretend shopping trip with them, visit a bank, open a store or invent a new country with new types of money.
For example, if they’re pretending to go grocery shopping, they can be the customer and you can be the cashier. You can help them check for prices, look at labels and ask questions about the food. As a cashier, you can ring up their items, provide change and use a calculator.
Using play money can help with these activities. Buy some at a toy store or find some images of play money online and print them out at home. Be sure to have play money in paper and coins.
After pretend play, take your children shopping with you, and stick to a shopping list. Make a collage of pictures before you go and ask them to help you find the items at the store. Also, clip coupons and compare prices between items, and identify which items are needs versus wants.
Money book club
I’ve previously written here about books to teach young children about money. A librarian can come up with many more books.
Start your own money book club with your children’s neighborhood friends or at their school. The CFPB had a “Money as You Grow” book club last summer in some libraries around the country for children ages 4-10.
The agency’s guide to the program lists some books about money that parents can read with their children, or parents can ask at their local library for recommendations. Here are some books the CFPB guide recommends:
• “A Bargain for Frances,” by Russell Hoban
• “A Chair for My Mother,” by Vera Williams
• “Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday,” by Judith Viorst
• “Curious George Saves His Pennies,” by Margaret and H.A. Rey
• “Just Shopping With Mom,” by Mercer Mayer
• “My Rows and Piles of Coins,” by Tolowa M. Mollel
• “Sheep in a Shop,” by Nancy Shaw
• “The Berenstain Bears & Mama’s New Job,” by Stan and Jan Berenstain
• “The Purse,” by Kathy Cable
• “Those Shoes,” by Maribeth Boelts
Parent guides are available for these and other books recommended by the CFPB at its website under “Free Publications for Libraries.”
When reading to your child, ask questions as you read, choose a regular story time, keep the story time short, find a quiet place to read, look for ways to talk about the story, make sure the children can see the pictures, read with expression in your voice and continue to read aloud together once your child can read alone.
However you teach your child about money, try to make it a continuing process. The more you can teach them early in life about money, the better they should be at working with it as adults.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the Bay Area who specializes in personal finance writing. He writes for various websites and has worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers
throughout California. He also writes about his family’s personal finance journey at CashSmarter.com.