In the previous installments, I shared a few lessons I have learned as a mother and money advisor about the impact we have on young minds and personal finance. While a child three years old may seem young, it is not too young for them to begin forming an understanding about money. Whether we like or intend it or not, our little ones are always observing and picking things up from us. That includes our habits and attitudes on money. As a mom and CFP, I feel strongly it is important to share this information with you. It is information that can help all of us be more effective parents and role models to our children on a subject matter crucial to their well-being and futures.
What is our next step? Where do we go from here? How do we take greater control of preparing and placing our children on the path to financial stability and success?
Here is some good news. There are many opportunities daily to teach our children about money. There are trips to the grocery and toy stores. There are birthdays and holidays. Heck, every time we pull out our wallet to buy something like at a restaurant or a gas station, it is an opportunity to impart or reinforce our kids’ habits and attitudes on money.
My advice, go after these moments. Start small. Take simple steps that are easy to execute. But whatever you do, start. Below are a few activities to help you get going. You can do one today – right away. Have fun!
- Household Treasure Hunt. If they are not already there, hide some coins in the couch, chairs, or other places in the house. Then, accompany your child, hunting and digging for those coins. Each time you discover a copper penny or a silver quarter drop it into a transparent savings jar. Rattle the jar. Make some noise. Exchange high fives or hugs. Celebrate the find and the habit of saving. Use the opportunity to discuss the different sizes of the coins and their value. Share with your kids a penny is one cent, a nickel is five cents and so on. Use your imagination and go from there. For example, you can supplement this coin recognition experience with a lesson on spelling and penmanship by having your kids spell out in writing the names of each coin. If you travel and want to take the exercise a step further, include some coins you have from your last trip to another country. You know, the ones you kept because you thought they were cool? Well, your kids will think they are cool too! Talk to them about the difference between our coins and coins from Mexico, Canada, and Europe. You get the idea.
- Count Coins. Pull out your piggy bank or savings jar and count the coins and bills with your kids. Make it a monthly family tradition. Or, do other activities with the coins like practicing making change, bank savings deposits, and store purchases.
- ‘Money’ Crafts. Don’t have a piggy bank? Perfect! Get out an empty peanut butter jar or any transparent container you have been holding onto that is safe. Then, have your kids decorate and create their own personal savings bank. If you don’t have a peanut butter jar or transparent container, no problem. Get creative. Take an empty tissue box (with a premade deposit slot) and have them decorate it. Again, this activity is a wonderful opportunity to communicate with your kids about money. Share with them words like deposit, withdrawal, saving, spending, bank account, etc. Share with them simple yet powerful concepts like it is smart to deposit some money, even small amounts, into your savings regularly.
- Three Jars. Are you ready for more? Use the three jars technique or three boxes to kick start kids thinking about allocating and managing their money for different purposes. Have your little ones decorate each jar and label them: saving, ‘smart’ spending and sharing. Talk to them about the different concepts. Ask them questions, like, what would they would do with the money in each of the jars.
- Play Pretend! Get out that monopoly money and set up shop! Grab some different things from around the house and put a price tag on each one. For the young ones, you can put the prices as ‘three pink’ bills or ‘two orange’ bills. For the older ones you can have more traditional pricing like $15.
One of the big bonuses I love is leveraging these opportunities to teach lessons on multiple subjects. I discuss money geography, art, culture, and more, whatever is appropriate. And, most importantly, we do it as a family. We have amazing quality time together, which we all know can be in short supply these days.
So, before another moment slips by, let’s do it. Find those kids of yours and get to it!