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4 Fun Games That Teach Financial Literacy with Halloween Candy
Your kids have returned home with their spoils from a long night of trick-or-treating. They’ve sorted and downed a gluttonous amount of their favorite sweets all in the first evening, yet their candy pile appears to be never ending.
If your children insist on eating themselves into a sugar rush over the next few weeks, you might as well turn it into a teachable moment. Here are our four favorite games to put their candy to good use.
1. Counting Candy
It’s Halloween night. You’ve just gotten home after trick-or-treating and your child is eager to rip open those candy wrappers. Before they do, it’s good practice to sort the candy and inspect it for any questionable or dangerous treats.
Sorting candy into piles is an ideal time to reinforce counting skills, which are fundamental to financial literacy for young children. Number how many of each type of candy your child received. Draw similarities between the different types of candy and the different values of dollars and cents.
As the candy pile slowly starts to diminish, have your children count and recount with the subtraction or addition of each candy bar.
2. Cash Candy
Our next game will turn your children’s candy into actual currency, and it comes from David Bakke of the personal finance blog Money Crashers.
“Say an actual candy bar would be worth $1, and then certain pieces of candy would be worth a quarter, a dime, a nickel, and a penny,” suggests Bakke. “If possible, use the largest piece of candy for the quarter and then go down in size to where the smallest is a penny.”
“Then you pretend to make transactions and ask your kid to accept your money and make the correct change using the candy,” he explains.
Take the game a step further by offering to buy some of the candy from your child’s collection. Suggest prices that reflect your child’s likes and dislikes—for example a nickel for black licorice and a dollar for a jumbo-size snickers. Or you could let them negotiate the amount, practice bartering, and even come up with deals like “two for one.”
Not only will playing this game subtract from your child’s sugar rush, but stipulate that any money earned must be added to a savings piggy bank.
Have any leftover candy that didn’t get passed out to visiting trick-or-treaters? You could offer to sell that for other pieces of candy or real money to improve your child’s decision-making skills.
Using different pieces of candy worth different dollar amounts will teach children about budgeting, said Bakke.
“Maybe they earn 10 candy bars for a monthly income, but five pieces of candy corn equal a candy bar (and other equivalents) and you need to figure out how to pay monthly bills,” he said.
Keep adding new elements to further explain to your child why this money game is important and what financial skills it’s teaching. By playing, your child will learn about "needs" versus "wants," budgeting, saving, and spending within their means.
3. Compounding Candy
The next game is from Douglas Keller, a blogger and personal finance expert with Payless Power.
“For a number of kids, the urge to eat as much Halloween candy as possible in one sitting can be strong, but there may be a way to help kids dial back on that while teaching them about finances,” he said.
“The game to do this is 'Compounding Candy,' in which each day (or week) kids have the opportunity to increase the threshold for the sweets they can eat,” said Keller. “Begin by establishing their initial amount of consumption, which can be as small as a single piece of candy a day. In the event they are able to stick with just the one and not eat more, increase their daily consumption.”
“The frequency of increases can come after each passing day of good behavior or each passing week,” he said. “You can also establish a maximum threshold for the number of pieces they can eat daily (just to ensure they aren’t eating too much candy), but it’s a great opportunity to explain what putting money away and giving it time to grow can be like.”
But the game can take a twist, Keller said.
“In the event kids don’t stick to the plan and eat more candy than allowed, decrease the maximum threshold you’ll allow them to get up to and start them back at their initial amount of candy a day,” he said. Putting in place a penalty is “a good incentive to stay on track and also illustrates the point of tapping into accounts before giving them the time required to grow.”
Plus, the game offers an important side benefit.
“The game as a whole has the added benefit of getting rid of candy in a measured fashion,” he said.
4. Board Game Candy
Another tactic? Tap into popular games like “Dungeons and Dragons” or “Fortnite” using Halloween candy as money.
“[Try] a variation of Dungeons and Dragons to learn about saving, spending, and earning, but you'll be using candy pieces instead of dollars and cents,” said Bakke.
Similarly, “[i]f your kid is into Fortnite (and whose isn't these days) create a game where pieces of candy are worth certain amounts for V-bucks to be used at the item shop,” he said.
“The sky is pretty much the limit with Halloween candy and money games, as long as you can think outside the box,” he added.
David Bakke is a personal finance expert at Money Crashers. You can find him on Twitter at @MoneyCrashers.
Douglas Keller is a budget-conscious blogger and advocate of smart personal finance. You can find him on Twitter at @FinanceBloggr.