6 Creative Ways to Teach Children About Money This Summer
Lemonade stands are old news. Level up with these fresh ideas for kid-friendly money lessons.
It’s never too early to learn good financial habits. And contrary to popular belief, personal finance doesn’t have to be boring.
Games, activities, and contests are an engaging way to connect with kids and teach them the financial skills they need for long-term financial health.
Looking for something a little more creative than the classic lemonade stand? Here are six fun and fresh ideas that are perfect for kids of all ages.
#1: Savers Challenge
Saving can be a difficult concept for kids to grasp. However, it’s also one of the pillars of financial literacy—and a good place to start teaching young learners about personal finance.
Jessica Wertheim, the chief learning officer at Dearest, suggested creating an at-home shopping experience. To do this, she said, begin by providing an allowance for kids to manage. Let them know that for completing chores or housework they will earn a certain amount of money each week. Once kids have a little bit of pocket money, set up a store at home with prices that reflect what children will encounter once they begin shopping in the real world.
“Openly and honestly discuss how it feels to save money with your child,” Wertheim said. “Is it difficult for them? Is it easy? Why do they think it might be important to not spend everything they earn?”
Wertheim said parents like this twist on a traditional allowance because it can help demystify a concept that might feel abstract to kids.
“Children are more likely to both understand and remember the importance of saving money if they interact with the concept in a developmentally appropriate way,” she said.
For older children, one creative way to teach the importance of saving is to turn it into a competition. Certified financial planner J.J. Wenrich suggested that parents challenge their children to save a certain amount of money by the end of summer. The reward? The promise of doubling their savings.
“Challenge them to save $100 by the end of the summer, and offer to match it with $50 or $100—whatever amount you find appropriate to keep them engaged,” he said. “By doing odd jobs, selling things in the neighborhood, walking dogs, or whatever their imagination creates… challenge them to save instead of spend, and offer an incentive for reaching the goal.”
There’s no limit to what parents can dream up, Wenrich said. In fact, they might want to up the ante with a larger dollar amount or a longer timeframe.
“For teens or for timeframes longer than the summer, you can make it a $500 challenge, but if they reach the goal, help them make their first investment,” he suggested.
#2: Audiobooks and Podcasts
Perfect for summer road trips, audiobooks can help families pass the time. And by choosing ones with a financial focus, kids can learn about money, too.
But why stop at audiobooks?
Patti Black, a CFP at Bridgeworth LLC, suggested playing podcasts on financial topics that older children have expressed interest in. She praised Side Hustle School as a great choice for children and teens with minds for making money.
“I’m the annoying mom who makes my teens listen to it in the car!” she joked.
#3: Foster Entrepreneurship
And check out these fathers’ ideas for teaching entrepreneurship skills to children.
Personal finance advisor Matt Ruttenberg advocates learning by doing. As such, he prefers to teach his oldest daughter about money through entrepreneurship.
“Entrepreneurship is on the rise, and you can literally build a business around any passion now,” he said.
That’s why instead of a lemonade stand or bake sale, he’s helping his daughter build a company that sells something different: fairy gardens.
“These days, it’s extremely easy to build these kinds of ventures through various online companies, such as Shopify,” he said. “We are letting her choose her niche, create ways to market her newfound business to her friends, and learn how to manage her own money. All while enjoying the summer months with her friends.”
Alfred E. Blake, the assistant director of entrepreneurship programs at Rutgers, is designing a children’s book with his daughter Skylar.
“We decided to create a children’s book when my daughter Skylar had a TONNNN of questions regarding how her life would change as she became a big sister,” he said.
When they wrote the book, Skylar took the lead as project manager. She chose which pictures to include and gave input about the way the book read. With the final product in hand, Blake will use the book to teach her how to run a business—how much it costs to make the books and how to make money from them.
#4: Play with Money
Money doesn’t have to be an intimidating topic. One simple way to make kids comfortable with it is to get them to use it—put it in their hands and let them pay for purchases.
To make it fun, Black suggested planning a kid-friendly outing.
“If you’re taking a family trip to the zoo or to an amusement park, give your child cash to pay for souvenirs or snacks,” she said. “Remember that regardless of whether your child spends carefully and still has cash left at the end of the day or if your child spends all his or her money in the first hour on a large stuffed animal, your child is learning!”
#5: Hold an Auction
One idea from photographer and entrepreneur Kevin Vandivier is to harness the high-energy, fast-paced experience of an auction.
While raising three kids, Vandivier and his wife soon discovered that they were missing opportunities to teach their children about the value of money. Getting creative, Vandivier designed his family’s own play money called “Vandivier Bucks” in 5-, 10-, and 20-dollar denominations.
Vandivier and his wife would shop at the toy store and buy items on sale. They then placed the toys “in a prominent place for the kids to drool over throughout the week,” he said.
The kids would receive Vandivier Bucks in exchange for completing chores and earning good grades. Bad behavior or low grades were met with hefty fines. And then came the fun part: the auction. Kids would either bid on an item or pay the pre-labeled buy-it-now price that Vandivier set.
“Through this, we had a lot of fun, plus the kids learned to save, bid, haggle, count the cost, loan money, borrow money, and giving,” he said.
The family continued to hold auctions until the kids started earning real money in their teens.
#6: Stock-Picking Contest
A little competition is a great boredom buster, so keep the games going with a summer stock-picking contest courtesy of J. J. Wenrich.
To play his game, kids pick one or two stocks and invest with play money. (They might enjoy choosing stock in kid-familiar companies such as Walt Disney, Netflix, or Hasbro.) Kids can then monitor their gains, and at the end of the summer, whoever holds the best performing stock wins an appropriate prize—a trophy, prize money, or the promise of buying a share in the winning stock.
This activity gives parents the “chance to talk about the basics of money and ‘what is a stock,’” Wenrich said. It also provides kids a hands-on experience managing a portfolio—all without putting real money at risk.
Learning should be fun, and it can be. This summer, teach kids critical financial skills with these fun and parent-approved activities!
|Patti Black has more than 20 years of experience helping affluent clients align their goals and their money. This work is especially important in times of transition such as starting a family, sending children to college, changing jobs, or retiring. Black develops a customized financial plan that incorporates the clients’ needs, wants, and wishes while addressing employee benefits, income tax, insurance, investments, cash flow, and estate planning. She practices in a fee-only environment and is confident that the advice she gives is objective and geared towards her clients’ best interests. You can find her at Bridgeworth, LLC.|
|Alfred Blake currently serves as assistant director of Entrepreneurship Programs at Rutgers Business School. When he is not working with students, he is working to be a great dad, husband, and person. He is the author of “The Students Handbook To Breaking All The Rules” and an intrapreneurship speaker. Blake also created a platform for millennials that allows them to take ownership of their responsibilities and impact their lives. Get in touch with him on LinkedIn.|
|Matt Ruttenberg is co-creator of The Money Twins and a third generation financial expert. He and his brother teach young families how to become financially independent, by building SOLID Wealth.|
|Kevin Vandivier first discovered his love for photography after the Vietnam War and the draft ended just when it was his time to go. He shot his first assignment for National Geographic Society while he was in his third year at The University of Texas studying photojournalism. Upon graduation he landed his first job at The Dallas Times Herald. Missing the freedom of freelance photography, Vandivier left the Herald, shooting for National Geographic Society and many others. He also began hanging his Fine Art Collections in several Galleries, including his own The V Gallery. These days Vandivier has added leading photographers on workshop adventures through National Photographic Adventures.|
|J. J. Wenrich is a certified financial planner and 20-year veteran of the investment world. He developed his fascination in the stock market as a child, watching business reports on PBS. His education continued at The University of Kansas, reigniting his love of the market. Since then, he has built a career in financial planning and investments. Along the way, he met his wife Jodie—also a financial professional at the time—and together they built a family “portfolio” including four children. It’s that family unit that is the basis of J.J.’s lessons educating kids about healthy financial habits and Teaching Kids to Buy Stocks.|
|Jessica Wertheim is the Chief Learning Officer at Dearest and an adjunct professor at New York University. Before working at Dearest, Wertheim worked for the New York City Department of Education’s Division of Early Childhood on the Pre-K for All Initiative. Previously, she taught middle school math and science in Northern California. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.|
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