Teaching Kids About Money: A Game

Teaching Kids About Money: A Game

We’ve already seen our first snowfall, pumpkin patches have appeared in parking lots, and squirrels are stowing food away for the winter. Halloween is nearly here! In preparation, I picked up an assortment of trick-or-treating candy last week. Chocolately, sour, and sweet, no little ghoul will be leaving my porch without a favorite. That also means my little ones will be coming home with their own orange Jack-O-Lanterns filled to the brim.

And I’ll make it a chance to seize a learning opportunity and continue something I began teaching them recently.

Game time

Not too long ago, we sat down, opened my wallet, and looked at everything in there. I counted bills, read names and numbers, and, eventually, put everything back into its place and quickly moved on to something a little more age appropriate.

But on that day, I may have learned something much more important than my kids. The daunting task — at least for me as a financial professional — of teaching children about money can and should be a game. And, importantly, this game can start much earlier than I think many would imagine.

Start with probably the easiest but — by far — most important money lesson: Saving it.

The game and how you play and apply it will, of course, grow along with your child. For more interesting ways to help you continue your child’s money education, check out Family Education’s Money and Kids page.

Find a container — be it a piggy bank or milk jug — and start investing in your lesson by contributing your loose change and even a few dollar bills that your child can have fun depositing into the container. Then, periodically empty the container with your child and identify, organize, and count the contents. After she or he redeposits the bounty and you help her or him apply copious amounts of hand sanitizer, deposit some interest as a reward for playing the game with you.

The thing with these early lessons about money is that so much crossover to other areas exists that you’re already hoping to teach your child that it’s a natural fit. From identifying shapes and sizes to counting, reading, and even learning a bit of history and math, early lessons concerning finances can pay off in so many ways.

A Halloween twist

It also makes a couple weeks before Halloween the perfect time to start playing the game with your child if you don’t already or pick it back up if you haven’t played in a while. Then, after trick-or-treating is over and your child is sorting candy into piles, reinforce counting skills by numbering how many of each type of sweet your child has and remind her or him of the similarities between those piles of candy and the types of money you count.

To take the game a step further, you can offer to buy some of the treats, allowing your child to add to her or his savings — and subtract from the sugar rush. You can offer prices that reflect her or his likes and dislikes: a nickel for taffy, a dime for candy corn, a quarter for fun-sized chocolate bars. You could even offer to sell your own trick-or-treating leftovers — but your favorites just might be worthy of fetching a pretty penny, allowing your child to improve her or his decision-making skills.

By playing — and adding new elements to keep it interesting — you’re able to explain why the game is so important and start to allow your child to distinguish between needs and wants as well as how to spend within her or his means.

Whether you want to teach your children about money or learn something new yourself, I’m here to help. 

If you have financial planning questions, just ask! Interested in meeting with me to begin the path to your financial future? I’m accepting new clients, and you can start by taking a look at the How It Works page to learn more. Then, simply schedule a time for a no-cost web or in-person financial planning consultation.

Jason Speciner
Jason Speciner

Jason Speciner is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, an Enrolled Agent, and the founder of fee-only firm Financial Planning Fort Collins. He is also a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), Financial Planning Association (FPA), and XY Planning Network. Since 2004, he has served clients of all ages and backgrounds with unique experience working with members of generations X and Y. To learn more, check out Jason's blogs and see the media he's been featured in.