It's never too early to start talking with kids about money. From a young age, children observe how money is used and begin to form ideas of their own surrounding the crisp bills and shiny coins they'll one day find in their own pockets. Starting early, parents and teachers have the ability to impart knowledge not only about money itself but how to save it and spend it wisely. When these lessons begin at the preschool age, it creates a solid foundation that can continue to be built on over the years as their knowledge grows. New information and new opportunities enhance their understanding. Teachers can incorporate lessons about money using a variety of subjects, including math, making it easy to fit these ideas into the curriculum seamlessly.
One of the most basic lessons that a child will need to learn is that sometimes, people have to wait to buy something that they really want. Delayed gratification is something that even adults struggle with at times. Early childhood is the perfect time to introduce the idea of saving up for something big and being patient until you can have it.
Kids also need to know that they can make choices about how to spend their money. As kids get old enough to earn money for doing chores, this is an opportunity for parents to discuss making good decisions about making purchases. Building on the idea of saving, kids must learn the concept of needs versus wants. At this point, an allowance can be used as a learning tool. Children can begin to decide what they will do with their money and get real-life lessons when they spend wisely or make monetary mistakes. This is also a good time to begin introducing the concept of giving money to others.
With a solid background in money management, as they grow, kids can continue to gain experience and put these concepts into practice. From understanding how to calculate interest to comparison-shopping, important life skills can begin to take shape. Older children can be introduced to checking and savings accounts. How debit cards work and how they are different from credit cards is also an important lesson. Ideally, this information should be given to children before they are out on their own, making financial decisions without any influence from their parents.
While all of this starts with recognition of coins and dollars and their value, there are countless things that kids can learn about finances, and these lessons are important to convey through a child's life. One of the biggest things to keep in mind as well is that children learn by watching. This means that parents have a lot of influence over how their children see money, spending, saving, and even investing, and it's crucial to set a good example for kids to follow as they continue to grow and learn.
Preschoolers (3-5 Years Old)
- Math Sense: Learning About Coins
- Your Preschooler and Money (PDF)
- Developmental Concepts, Activities, and Reading Lists for Teaching About Money
- Elmo Makes a Choice: Needs Vs. Wants (video)
- Smart Start: Teaching Preschoolers About Money (PDF)
- Building Your Preschooler's Financial Capabilities (PDF)
- Tips for Teaching Preschoolers About Money (PDF)
- Money-Wise Children: Learning by Doing (PDF)
Elementary School (K-5)
- World of Cents: An Online Game
- Middle Childhood Activities to Introduce the Financial World
- Children and Money: Teaching Children Money Habits for Life (PDF)
- Using the Grocery Store as a Classroom for Teaching About Money
- Save Perry's Pennies: A Savings Game
- Susan's Choice: Personal Finance Lesson Plan for Grades K-2
- Finding Fabulous Financial Literacy: Vocabulary With Fancy Nancy
- Kindergarten Mathematics: Activities for Learning About Money
Middle School (6-8)
- Once Upon a Dime Comic Book and Lesson Plans
- Refund Rush Game
- Kids and Money: Teaching Children to Manage Their Finances (PDF)
- Teaching Children Money Management (PDF)
- Uncle Jed's Barbershop Lesson Plan (PDF)
- An Introduction to Savings and Checking Accounts
- Opportunity Cost (video)