We’ve put together a list of five fun ways to teach kids about money, which will help them with financial literacy—and help parents so the kids aren’t living with us forever:
You can start very young teaching basics with toys such like these:
As early as age 2, there are toys like The Learning Journey Numbers and Colors Pig E Bank, which has colored coins the bank counts as you put them in the slot. You can get this toy for around $19.
Beginning with toddlers (around age 3), you can use a play cash register to let kids play “store” and understand the basics of money. This can help them learn how much money they have, how much they have left when they buy something, and how things add up when you buy multiple things. One popular cash register from Learning Resources costs about $30 on Amazon.
Made for kids 5 and up, this Learning Resources Pretend & Play Checkbook comes with a calculator, checkbook, deposit slips and guide to help kids learn about managing a bank account and writing checks. Even if checks aren’t often used much anymore, it’s still a fun way to help your kids learn about money and debiting accounts. It costs approximately $12.
2. Online Games
These games are available online for you to help your kids learn about money and finance:
This simple money game on Visa’s Practical Money Skills site is made for ages 3-6 and involves putting together a “puzzle” from mixed up pieces of a bill ($1-$100).
Smart Money Commanders
Ruby’s Troupe is an organization that uses an interactive theatre with a fun-loving group of puppets to teach kids ages 3-10 (and their parents) about money and finance. The program was created by puppeteer Phyllis Mattson and Debbie Todd, a licensed CPA. It has online modules where children watch puppets, get coloring pages, and have access to games and activities.
“We have three purposes when it comes to teaching about managing money,” Todd explains. “First is for them to find out it’s fun. Second is to find out it’s practical. And third is that they can do it and be successful at it.”
They also focus lessons on the emotional and psychological aspects of money, because that is where a lot of mistakes can be made. They’ve also done live sessions and Todd says it’s amazing to see the “tall kids” (parents) sit in the back and learn with the kids: “By the end, we’ve provided the parents with the tools to have a non-confrontational, non-threatening conversation with their children.”
Ruby’s Troupe also donates 90% of its profits to charity, including nonprofits and foundations that promote financial literacy, which is critically lacking here in the U.S. Only 17 states offer financial literacy courses for high school students and a recent report card by Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy gave only five states—Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia—an ‘A’ grade for providing personal finance education.
Peter Pig’s Money Counter
Made for children from 5-8, this interactive game from Visa helps kids learn about counting and saving money along with U.S. currency.
Clay Piggy is an online game created for Kindergarten and above by a parent who didn’t find any fun options when trying to teach her own daughter about money. Students learn basic money management skills such as how to earn, spend, save, invest, and give.
There are different scenarios in the game where they have to take a job to earn money, create a budget, understand wants and needs, watch their credit scores, be a responsible investor by assessing credit profiles of other users who asking for loan, learn how to pay taxes, look at their paychecks and more.
“Parents need to talk to their children about savings and give them situations at an early age where they have to manage money,” explains Narinder Budhiraja, founder of Clay Piggy. “Lots of people learn about money by making mistakes and then spend lot of years fixing their mistakes. This bring lot of stress in their personal life. At Clay Piggy, we are determined to change that behavior.”
Currently Clay Piggy is currently only available for schools to use, but they’re planning to roll out an application for parents later this year.
Another game on Visa’s Practical Money Skills site, this one is created for 7-12-year-olds to make life decisions that impact whether their virtual bank account will make or earn money.
Mt. Everest Money Simulation
This game is a choose-your-own-adventure simulation where kids help a backpacker plan a trip to Mt. Everest without going into debt. It’s available from Money Prodigy and is made for kids ages 8-13. You can learn more about it and join the wait list here.
Financial Football and Financial Soccer
Cash Crunch 101
Created for ages 13 and up, Cash Crunch 101 facilitates the conversation about money. It was created by a teacher for the classroom, but can be used by parents and kids as well.
3. Board Games
By keeping these around your house, your kids can play games with the family to learn more about money:
Kids ages 5-8 can play a version of traditional Monopoly, learning how to count money and accumulate assets. It runs approximately $15.
Game of Life Junior
This version of Hasbro’s Game of Life is a version made for kids as young as 5 years old to go on various adventures and make money along the way. It costs about $25.
Cash Crunch Junior
This board game was created for children ages 7-12 and focuses on the value of money, denominations of money and making change. It’s a great way to help kids learn at home while having fun counting money. It costs $30 and is available on the Cash Crunch Games website.
Money Bags Coin Value Game
Kids ages 7 and older can play this board game from Learning Resources that teaches about collecting, counting and exchanging money. It costs about $16.
Originally launched in 1975, this board game was made for children 8 and older to play with their families. Created by Winning Moves Games, the object is to have the most money at the end of the game, which runs about 35-45 minutes long. Throughout the game, players can make deals on a property to earn money, get a salary, pay off bills, take out loans, add to savings, and learn about paying fees. You can get it for approximately $15.
Ages 14 and up can learn more about financial skills, investing, and wealth building in a fun way with this interactive game. It was created by Robert Kiyosaki, author of the bestselling personal finance book of all time, Rich Dad Poor Dad, and comes with a PDF guide. The cost is approximately $80 on Amazon.
4. Activities & Outings
If you live in Chicago or are traveling there this summer, make sure to take your kids to the Chicago Fed’s Money Museum. It’s open Monday through Friday (except for Bank Holidays) and they offer exhibits such as the Alexander Hamilton Exhibit and interactive displays like the “Banker Challenge” game where kids play the role of a bank manager.
While camps to get your kids outdoors are great, you may want to look into finance camps for a fun, educational experience for part of the summer. Even though finance summer camp may not sound exciting at first, these camps make money and entrepreneurship really fun for kids:
- Camp BizSmartTM in Santa Clara, CA and Chattanooga, TN helps aspiring young entrepreneurs ages 11-15 learn how to solve business problems and defend their solution to executives and investors.
- KidsCamps.com offers a directory of camps, showcasing availability in 18 states for business and finance camps.
- Smart Money Commanders Fun Summer Money Games is launching its first online summer camp in mid-June 2018, which will run through August 2018.
- Young Americans Center For Financial Education offers workshops in the Denver area both to teach about managing money and running a business.
Your Local Children’s Museums
Check out the children museum(s) in your area. Many of them have rotating exhibits and some of those cover business, money, and finance in fun, interactive ways. You can find children’s museums here.
5. Charitable Activities
Teaching your kids how to give to others while on a budget is something that will help them learn various skills and allow them to feel a sense of purpose and pride. Here are some unique ways kids can learn about money and give back:
There’s an organization in Atlanta, GA that not only encourages children to give back, but teaches them how to raise money. Kids Boost, which currently has a wait list of over 200 kids, is a 501(c)3 organization that gives children from third grade through high school $100 and they put together a fundraiser for a charity of their choice. In just a few years, they’ve given kids $6,000 and they have turned that into more than $110,000, supporting 48 non-profits.
“Fundraising comes with important life lessons such as money management, communication, planning, and accountability,” explains Kids Boost founder and executive director Kristen Wintzel. “This teaches kids so many things while boosting courage and self-esteem and supporting wonderful nonprofits around the world. Most kids go on to either compete another Kids Boost project or continue to get involved in philanthropy and civil engagement. Giving is powerful and giving is contagious!”
Birthday Gift Donations
Instead of adding to the never-ending supply of toys that your kids play with for five minutes, you can use your child’s birthday as an opportunity to give back. Some charities like St. Jude’s offer a birthday fundraising program where you can easily create a page to collect donations for your birthday. Also, Facebook lets you create a fundraiser for various organizations, letting you share and have people donate to anytime including your birthday.
You can also pick a charity that may need physical items and create an Amazon wish list. We did this with my daughter for her birthday—collected toys for the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, an idea I borrowed from my cousin. You can deliver the items with your child and make them part of the experience.
This may not seem like its teaching kids how to manage money, but it helps them learn about wants vs. needs and the value of money—along with how it can be used to do good things for others.
Open Communication About Money
The bottom line is that you should get your kids involved in money conversations early on, and make sure it doesn’t become a taboo topic. That will benefit them (and you) in the long run because often times people get embarrassed when dealing with money challenges.
The unfortunate reality, though, is that many people deal with financial issues. A recent survey by the American Psychiatric Association shows that two-thirds of Americans are anxious about paying their bills, up from 56% last year. So the earlier you teach your kids about money and how to talk about it, the better they’ll be set up for success as they grow and have to make their own financial decisions.
For those who may not know where to start, Amanda Grossman, Certified Financial Education Instructor and founder of Money Prodigy says, “The best way parents can get started teaching their kids about money is to find out what your child is interested in, such as goals and what they want to be, do, and have in their lives. You can then tie any money lessons you teach or money conversations you have moving forward to their list of things that are important to them, meaning they’ll be more receptive in receiving the information instead of just thinking you’re babbling on about stuff that doesn’t relate to them.”
This article first appeared on the Experian blog
Ellen Sirull is senior manager of content at Experian Consumer Services, a division of Experian, the nation's largest credit bureau. In her role, she helps consumers learn about credit, personal finance, and identity theft protection.