Ten Top Ways of Teaching Kids about Money | Best Money Games for Kids
We all want our kids to get ahead in life, and to do it is essential that they know how to manage their money. A child can grow up to be a doctor, teacher, website owner, lawyer, firefighter, etc. but none of that might matter if they don’t know the basics of money management.
Unfortunately, these are not skills they will learn in the classroom or pick up on the school yard. These lessons normally come from parents. And, the earlier the age, the better.
You don’t need to be an investment banker to teach your kids everything they need to know about money management. More importantly, you don’t need to sit them through a boring lesson. Teaching kids about money can be fun and in many cases they won’t even realize they’re learning life-changing principles.
Below are money games for kids, and lessons for teenagers that will help you prepare them financially for their future.
Ages 3-5: Think Out Loud
To teach your kids about money management, you will need to start with the basics. Luckily, you can start right away.
When you’re out shopping, think out loud about money and your financial choices so that your kids are exposed to the general concepts.
Talk about why you are purchasing certain things and emphasize that there is a cost to most items. “Hmmm, this pair of socks costs $2, while this pair costs $3. I think I’ll pick the $2 pair so that I can use the extra $1 on something else.”
We all know that kids pick up what they hear, so take advantage of that!
Ages 3-5: Patience Pays
One of the most basic money management lessons for kids to learn is the value of saving. But before they can learn that, they need to learn to have patience – and that in the end, patience can really pay off. Make sure your children understand that waiting in line for the slide is more than just being polite. They are being patient because the ride down the slide will be worth it.
Money games that require kids to wait their turn like “I Spy” and “Red Light, Green Light” are great for this. Because they are teaching your child patience, these activities can also be considered early money management games.
Ages 4-6: Money Games for Kindergarten and Pre-school
Once your kid starts to observe you using money or find it in your change jar, it is time to introduce them to fun games that will teach them how to tell coins apart and what different dollars look like.
There are lots of free counting money games for kids online like Primary Games’ Peter Pig’s Money Counter that will help your child sort and add different coins.
You can also create your own money game for your preschooler at home by putting a pile of coins on a table with four different bowls that the coins need to be sorted into.
Once your child has properly sorted them, they can pour them out and mix them again. It is an easy challenge for them that they will do over and over again.
Ages 5-7: Budget and Save with Snacks
As parents, we want to give our kids everything we can. This can make it difficult for them to understand that there is only a certain amount of money to go around because most of the time we come up with the money to get them what they need.
Teaching them about a budget using their snacks can be really effective because you give them complete control of the situation. If there’s not enough left at the end of the week, it’s on them, not you!
Here’s how you do it: Give every snack in the house a price. You don’t need to overcomplicate things here, so just stick with 3 values – $1, $2, and $3, with cheaper or healthier snacks valued at $1 and more expensive or higher calorie snacks valued at $3.
Give your kids $8-$10 at the start of the week and teach them how to make the best use of it. If they use it all at once, then they won’t get any snacks for the rest of the week, but if they have the patience to save it up, they can have a big snack at the end of the week.
Ages 6-8: Create a Savings Goal Thermometer
One of the hardest concepts to accept (even as an adult) is that setting aside small increments of money can lead to a whole lot of money. This, however, is one of the most important lessons to pass on to our kids.
Have your kids set a goal for an extra special item that they want to purchase. It could be an expensive toy, or even a day trip to the beach. Make sure it is something you are actually willing to purchase for them when they reach their goal.
Have your kids draw a long thermometer with a picture of their goal at the top and notches for savings increments along the way. Each week, give them payment (real or fake money) for extra chores they complete.
At the end of each week, sit with them and count up the money, then have them fill up the thermometer with what they have earned. As they watch their savings grow (literally!), they will get more and more excited. Once they’ve reached their goal, they will understand not only that you have to save for expensive items, but also that setting a goal and saving for it can be an extremely rewarding process.
Ages 6-10: Advanced Money Games for Kids Online
At this point, your kids understand what money is, that it is used to purchase things, and that you earn it by working.
But the full cycle of how money passes hands can be a little more complicated. Introduce them to internet games that will help to teach them about how money is used in our society.
Kids Math Games has an entire section dedicated to teaching kids about money. They can start with a setting up a lemonade stand and build up to running their own coffee shop.
At Practical Money Skills your kids can play Money Metropolis, where they create a child that looks like them who must navigate the city earning money to purchase items for their character.
These are great money games for 2nd graders and 3rd graders that already love to play internet games. All of these games are free and can help supplement what you are already doing for them at home.
Ages 10-15: Set up a Savings Account
As soon as your kids’ piggy bank starts to hold more than $100, it is time to help them set up their own savings account. This is a huge opportunity to teach them about real savings because for the first time they will not be able to “see” their savings. There will be no jars or piggy banks. Their money is in the hands of the bank.
With this big step comes another huge lesson: compound interest. There are lots of compound interest calculators that you can find online, like this one from Investor.gov, that can provide a specific example for your kids about how much money they will end up saving and how much extra they will earn from interest.
Ages 10-15: Coupon Clipping for Points
Teaching kids about savings is two-fold. At this point, they are already learning the first piece – that they should set money aside to save for later. The second piece is just as important – when making a purchase, you can save money by choosing the most cost-effective option.
To help your kids understand how powerful this can be, turn the weekly grocery trip into a fun money management game. Before going to the store, make a list of all the items you want to purchase. Give the list to your kids and tell them to go through coupons to search for any that match what is on your list.
For every dollar they can save, give them 1 “house dollar”. Come up with a list of rewards that they can earn with their house dollars – staying up an extra hour, watching a special movie, hosting a sleep-over, etc. They will not only learn that saving a dollar here and there will add up, but will also learn that certain luxuries (like movies and going out with friends) cost money.
Ages 16-18: Their First Credit Card
Whether or not you use a credit card regularly, you will need to teach your kids about the good and the bad that comes from using one.
As early as 16, most credit card companies will allow a teenager to have a credit card that is cosigned by their parent.
While this can be a terrifying thought, the good news is that they will also set a credit limit as low as $300. If you’re not comfortable with that, consider a secured credit card.
These credit cards require a deposit that regulates the limit. Make sure you help your teenager research these options thoroughly because many can be loaded with fees.
By getting your teenager a credit card early, you are giving yourself a few years to work with them before they are off on their own.
It is extremely important to teach them to pay off their entire bill each month and with a low limit, it will be harder for them to go overboard.
16-18: The Cost of Higher Education
As your child’s life becomes absorbed by choosing a college, make sure that they factor cost into the equation.
This is their first life-altering decision and too often the cost is pushed to the side to be dealt with later – leaving your kids in tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars of debt.
Sit with your teenager and help them to write out a serious budget that includes costs they are not used to – electricity, food, and rent.
Help them to run the numbers and figure out what their future student loan debt would be.
What other things could they have if they did not have that debt?
These are huge decisions that they will be making at a very young age. It is time for all of your lessons to come together and prove their worth!
Money will be an inevitable part of your child’s life from the day they leave your house, but the learning needs to start much sooner. Money management for kids can be fun and easy.
An extra game of “I Spy” could lead to an early retirement or an extra family vacation – and if you’re lucky, they will have saved enough for you to be included.
MarketConsensus Contributor: Nikki Schilling | Editor: Ogbe Airiodion