One of the best ways to teach kids about money, it’s value and relevance in everyday life, is to include them in daily money activities, starting as early as possible.
Children often have a hard time understanding money, including the concept of earning it and paying for things. Our modern, cashless society makes money even more abstract.
Make it Fun
Playing games with or about money makes learning lots of fun, and few kids dislike games. You could go for familiar board games such as Monopoly or introduce them to online games with money as the theme.
Alternatively, make counting and money activities part of everyday life:
- Grocery shopping – make lists together, then find the prices in the shop.
- Plan a simple meal and draw up a list together along with a budget. The task is to get everything with the money available.
- Play shop games, setting up a stall at home. Decide on a price for goods, then take turns being shopkeeper and shopper. Gather a handful of real coins or buy some pretend money so they get used to parting with it to buy things.
- Start a piggy bank and introduce kids to the concept of interest. 10% is a good, easy figure to calculate, you just add €1 for every €10 they save.
Another activity that can be fun, is to create a family career tree, where you list occupations and the likely income of great-grandparents. This can end up being quite an in-depth research exercise and open all kinds of discussions about money and the restrictions or freedoms we get from it, plus how its value changes over time. It can prompt older children to think about their own future earning potential, and how certain career paths may offer multiple options. Learning accounting, for instance, can lead either to well-paid traditional roles or to profitable self-employment.
Make it Rewarding
Young children like to help around the house, so let them and reward them for doing so. Older children tend to rebel against doing chores, so having a reward system helps encourage them to muck in around the house.
- Ages 2 and 3 – they love to help, even though it can sometimes feel more of a hindrance. Let them help make beds, feed pets, pick up toys or put a sock on their hand and let them dust.
- Ages 6 – 8 They can help fold clothes, mop the floor or vacuum, feed pets or help to empty bins.
- Ages 9 – 12 Teach them how to load the dishwasher or washing machine, let them help to wash the car or clean the bathroom or kitchen.
- Older teens can do just about any household task if they’re taught. Getting them to, however, can be more of a challenge. High value tasks they could help with include washing windows, preparing meals, doing their washing (or the family wash), mowing the lawn or ironing.
Some people like having a chore list and others don’t, so if you don’t, that’s fine. If you do though, it can be useful to simply have a list of tasks that need doing, then let the kids ‘claim’ the jobs they want. Give each one a monetary value, then tot up who’s done what at the end of the week and add the earned money to their regular pocket money allowance.
As adults we know how important working and earning a living is. Unless kids are introduced to this concept early, see it as a natural part of life, and start enjoying the tangible rewards for their labours, they might have a much tougher time choosing a job or career after school or uni.
Make it Normal
While you won’t want to share every detail about your personal finances with your kids, it can be a good idea to include them in family decisions about money.
Things like decorating their rooms, buying birthday presents, getting new clothes or stopping for refreshments at a cafe, can prompt discussions about how much things cost versus the available budget. If the desired object is too expensive, talk about ways to save for it, how to earn more or put more aside.
You can even involve older children in planning for large family expenses like a holiday, for instance. Give them a budget and get them to search online for hotels, travel costs, the price of activities etc. It’s a great lesson in sticking to a budget and discovering just how far (or little) money goes.
While money matters are stressful for lots of us, it should never be made to feel scary to kids. Keep talks and games light-hearted, allow them to make mistakes and reassure them mistakes are fine since they’re opportunities to learn something new.
Managing money, seeing savings grow, and figuring out how to make it work as hard as possible can be a fun and rewarding pastime. It may help kids avoid developing a fear of maths and could even open their eyes to a gratifying career in accounting when they mature.