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How to Teach 3 Year Olds about Money


Yes, teaching 3-year-olds about money is possible! Yes, it is me again preaching the ways to teach kids about money!

3-year-olds are quite different developmentally than 7-year-olds, for example. So, customizing the approach based on the child is key to success. This type of learning is a process. For 3-year-olds, the concept taught has to be different than the concept taught to 8 years olds.

Teaching 3 Year Olds about Money

So, where do we start teaching young children about money? Instilling an idea like financial responsibility requires scaffolding for the child’s learning.

Plus, as parents, we need to take a big step back and think about what we want to achieve in teaching our kids about money.

Allowance? Chores? To help with the daily routine? Then figure out where to begin.

Teaching 3-Year-Olds about Money

Concept: Delayed Gratification (3-5-year-olds)

Young children are excited and ripe for learning about money. Teaching them how to identify money is one thing, but imagine instilling concepts around financial responsibility as young as 3 years old?

It is possible!

The first stage of learning about money is to find a way to guide a child to understand what it means to want something and have to WAIT for it. Such a tough topic in today’s fast-paced digital “have it at your fingertips within seconds” world. Some people (ah-hem, me) might even argue that teaching delayed gratification is more difficult today. Heck, it is even a tough concept for adults to grasp these days!

Can you relate?

Activities to Learn about Money for 3 to 5-year-Olds

I like to think of it as meta-cognition in some respects. I have to figure out a way to condition my kids (and myself for that matter) that going into a store doesn’t translate into buying something for ourselves.

Maybe we’re grocery shopping for a specific dinner. Maybe we have to stop at a store to purchase a birthday gift for a friend.

  1. Before going into the store, prepare your child: “We’re going into Target to buy a birthday gift for Kyle. We’re not going to be buying anything else.”
  2. Spend/Save/Give Jars: Take three mason jars and decorate them as “Spend”, “Save”, and “Give” jars. Check out this free printable:
  3. Create a Graph: Have the child choose an item he would like to purchase. Discuss the price. Create a chart. As the child adds money to the “bank”, color in the chart. Make sure the item does not cost too much. Otherwise, the child may lose the connection.
  4. Needs versus Wants: Using this activity sheet and real items, sort items based on needs versus wants. This activity is a great way to connect learning that happens later in the child’s life. 

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