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Kids and Money: Teaching Elementary-Age Children

It is vital that you get your kids started early when it comes to learning about money. The earlier you start, the more likely it is that they will grow up to make good financial decisions. You can teach children of almost any age about money. You can start with simpler concepts when they are toddlers, and then move to more advanced concepts as your children get older.

Elementary school is good time to build on some of the concepts you might have started with when your child was a toddler. Elementary school children are learning math concepts, and may even learn about money in school. You can build on this at home. Here are some ideas for helping your elementary-age child build better money habits.

Have Money Discussions at Home

Talk about needs and wants with your child. Show how in your home, you distinguish between needs and wants. You don’t need to lay heavy concepts on your child, but you can start by explaining that some things, like fruits and vegetables, are needs. We buy these items before we buy chips and candy, which are wants.

Let your child see you and your partner discussing what you will use your money for. My husband and I talk about saving up for a new laptop, or how we would like to use a windfall for investing [3], at dinner, while my son is around. While some investing concepts might be a bit beyond him, he can understand saving up for something. The idea is that he is used to us talking about making good decisions, and he knows that we have a plan for our money.

Show Your Child How to Shop Around for the Best Deal

My son was terribly upset when we wouldn’t let him buy a toy that he wanted at the store. He had saved up his money, and thought he should be able to spend it. However, once we got home, we showed him how to look for the best deal [4]. We searched for the toy using the computer, and showed him that it cost $5 less online — and came with free shipping. We did some math with him and showed him that he could save money, and use that $5 toward something else.

Now, my son loves looking for bargains. He likes to look at prices at each store when we are shopping, and compare those prices to what’s online. Because he has been learning “more” and “less” at school, and because he has been working on subtraction, we were able to build on those basic math lessons to help him apply them to money.

Let Your Child Make Mistakes

Sometimes, you have to let your child make a mistake. It’s better that they learn that their money decisions have consequences now, than to have a bigger money mistake [5] cause larger problems later. My son was sure he wanted some toys he had seen his friends play with. He insisted that he be allowed to buy them. He spent about $10 on these toys. Then, after two days, he was bored of them because he wasn’t interested in the TV show they were based on.

Instead, he wanted to buy a Star Wars Clone Wars toy. Unfortunately, after spending that $10 he didn’t have enough money. We had to tell him that he couldn’t raid his savings for the money (we were proud that he didn’t even consider raiding his church donation jar). Instead, we talked about thinking about what you are buying, and making decisions based on what’s important to you, and not getting something because your friends are.

It was a hard lesson, but this mistake has caused my son to think twice before he spends his money. And he has a stronger sense of responsibility for his own financial situation.

What tips do you have for teaching elementary school kids about money? Share your thoughts in the comments section!