If you’re like me, you remember the good ol’ days when filling a wagon with discarded aluminum cans and glass bottles earned you what seemed like a sizable sum. Now finding teachable moments to share your enthusiasm for financial wellness with the younger generation is a bit more difficult.
Yes, there are lots of games and apps to teach your child how to count money, but practical application is scarce because many of us simply don't carry cash. As a parent, I went in search of fun and age-appropriate ways to teach financial literacy. These money games fall into three categories — Saving, Budgeting and Credit. Under each category you'll find games for Little Kids (2-6 years old), Big Kids (7-12) and Teens (13+). Here’s what I found:
Little Kids: Show your little one the power of compound interest in just 10 days. Challenge your child to provide a penny, and each day match the amount in their “account.” For example, their “account” on Day 1: two pennies (their penny plus yours), Day 2: four pennies, Day 3: eight pennies, and so on for 10 days. At the end of the challenge, they’ll have $10.24.
Big Kids: Challenge your kids to save the equivalent of their age each month and add it to their savings account. By the end of the year, a dedicated 10-year-old can save $120.
Teens: Demonstrate to your teen the benefit of routine savings. Have them start out with 50 cents and increase the savings amount by 50 cents each week. By the end of the year, they’ll be saving over $25 a week.
Extra Credit: Saving and sharing go hand in hand. Find a cause your child is passionate about and offer to donate to charity the amount equal to what they’re able to save by the end of the challenge.
Little Kids: With more of us spending time at home, you can give your kids the opportunity to break up the monotony and allow them to plan a Zero Spend night. You can set the rules, such as only using already purchased items, or parents foot the bill for gas. You might find some new (and wallet friendly) pastimes for the family like camping in the backyard, board game showdown or a homemade obstacle course.
Big Kids: Set a budget for a meal and challenge your kids to create a dinner that stays within the allowance. Help your children make responsible choices by showing how the cost differs between ordering out and buying the ingredients at the store. Many grocery stores offer online grocery pickup at no additional cost, while restaurants often charge for delivery.
Teens: Some parents challenge their teens to plan dinners for a week while sticking within a budget. Review ads with your teens and point out good deals to stretch your dollars further. Incentivize your teen by letting them keep whatever isn’t gobbled up in groceries.
Extra Credit: Teach the value of a dollar by finding comparable ingredients at a lower price and let your children decide if it’s worth the extra cost.
Little Kids: What little kid isn’t tempted by the latest bright and shiny toy? Take this could-be meltdown and use the opportunity to educate. Explain to them that they can have this new toy today, but they won’t get any new toys until this one is “paid off” by chores like picking up toys or helping you around the house.
Big Kids: Gather some Mason jars and a bag of dried beans to make credit visual. Label one jar credit limit and one balance, then provide the number of beans to match your decided credit limit for your child. As your child spends, have them move over a bean for each dollar spent. When their payday or allowance arrives, they can move the corresponding number of beans back to their credit limit jar, and they’ll see how quickly spending can surpass your income if you’re not careful.
Teens: The next time your teen asks for help footing the bill on a big-ticket item, teach them about pros and cons of credit. Offer to cover the difference between their savings and the cost of the item but explain that this is a loan and they’ll have to make payments out of their allowance. You might sit them down and show them exactly how long it’s going to take to pay off the purchase. Plus, asking them to count out each payment will help them see exactly how much of their income is now dedicated to repaying a debt.
Extra Credit: The next time you have a credit card offer show up in the mail, take a moment with your teen and talk about the offer. Explain what to look for in a credit card, and why this is or isn’t an offer to consider.
Talking to kids at various ages in different ways can help prepare them for managing their own finances later in life. There are lots of ways to talk to your teen about money, but the most important thing is to start the conversation.
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