My son is approaching his 3rd birthday so we're just beginning to introduce him to the concept of money and, I suppose very distantly since the topic is fairly intangible at this point, financial responsibility.
How to Teach Kids about Money – First Steps
The first two steps we're taking as we venture down this path are: 1) TALKING about money whenever the moment comes upon us and 2) FAMILIARIZING our son with REAL money. I want my son to feel comfortable and secure when dealing with and handling money whether it is spending, saving, investing or donating. I want him to be confident in his decisions, feel and actually BE responsible. A little intangible but important.
STEP 1: TALKING
The good news is that lately our son has given us plenty of every day opportunities to guide him. For example:
Son: “Mom, I can't find talking Spencer. We need to go get another one.” (Spencer = Train)
Mom: “Well, how should we do that?”
Son: “Go to the store and the store will have one.”
Mom: “Will the store just give Spencer to us?”
Son: “No, we will buy it.”
Mom: “How will we do buy it?”
Son: “Mom, you will take your money out of your pocket and pay for the train.”
So, at least he is understanding the “currency exchange for goods” concept but we all know that isn't enough. The conversation ended with us talking about ways HE could EARN money to buy the train himself. We talked about chores as one example. He actually became very excited about this idea and proceeded to run around the house pointing at all the things he could do for our home, “I will take the recycling out for you, mama! I will sweep the floor! I will put the clothes in the dryer!” All very endearing to me. Sentiments that I hope we'll be able to cling onto for at least a short while.
STEP 2: FAMILIARIZING
Before starting this journey of physically exploring coins, I set two very simple GROUND RULES:
- Coins can be in your hands, on your leg/lap, on the floor, on the table to list a few reasonable place. Notice the list does not include “in the mouth”.
- Coins should remain in hands, on legs/laps, on the floor or on the table. Notice the list does not include “in the air”.
Familiarizing him with actual (gasp!) money takes patience, or at least does for me. My son is still in the very early phases of developing self control. So he immediately likes to fling a coin, or test me by putting a coin close to him mouth. He also gets a bit defensive when he is experiencing a new concept, one that he hasn't yet learned and doesn't get right away. I think that a lot of kids behave this way. So, sitting down with my child, fingering through coins, talking about each one…trust me, all of these simple actions adds to our children's true understanding and ability to grasp “money”. We counted, sorted and stacked coins, all to get familiar with each coin.
To gear up for the journey, we read a wonderful book called The Coin Counting Book by Rozanne Lanczak Williams.
The book is extremely hands on, the verse is catchy and the images of the coins are real, all of which I like in a teaching tool.
On a final note, these ideas are not going to become ingrained or learned overnight. I plan on introductory activities like the ones above to be a part of our lives a few times a week for the next several months. Then we'll move onto bigger and better, arguably more exciting (at least to the Mama) part about learning financial responsibility.
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