Make Money Fun

When it comes to teaching children money skills just remember two things. Make it fun, and keep it real! Below are some tips and advice for engaging your children with the idea of money and turning concepts into real life situations…

Pre-schoolers (3–5 years)

Very young children are too young for financial concepts but it’s still a good idea to get them used to handling money. All young children like the shape, look and feel of money – after all it’s just like treasure. The best way to engage them with money is to keep that excitement alive for as long as possible.

Make it fun…

  • As soon as they’re old enough to count, give them pennies to practise with.
  • Show them how to make pound coins shine by dropping them in a malt vinegar and salt solution for 15 minutes and brushing them with an old toothbrush. (Not to be used on copper coins). Then play pirates hunting for buried treasure.
  • Build up a stash of pennies and then hide them around the house for small children to find. Help them count up afterwards to see how many they’ve found.
  • Have a penny stacking race. The tallest tower without falling over in a minute wins!

Keep it real…

  • When your child is shopping with you around town make a point of using cash and coins for some purchases. If you are planning a purchase for your child allow them to keep the coins (safely) in their pocket or bag and then hand it over to receive the goods in exchange. This will demonstrate that stuff actually costs money much more effectively that watching you tap a piece of plastic.
  • Give multiple coins rather than notes to young children as a gift or pocket money – it’s more relatable because it’s easier to see how it mounts up. Keep it in a clear jar or see-through money box rather than a piggy bank and heap on the praise each time they add to it.

Primary school age (5 to 10)

Attitudes to money are formed early on. For this age group it’s all about setting the right example, so they learn healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

Make it fun…

  • At around five or six children can start to understand simple value concepts. This fun game for two players is an upgrade on the hunt the penny game for pre-schoolers and they won’t realise they’re learning! Hide different value coins around the house for them to find – using plenty of 1ps, 2ps and 5ps and fewer 10p, 50p and £1 coins. The child whose stash of coins adds up to the highest value wins. Great for familiarity with different coins and understanding the difference between quantity and value. (Why did Polly win if Max found more coins?).
  • Pound Play. For this game you need a dice, paper and a card with the following values: 1 = 1p 2 = 2p 3 = 5p 4 = 10p 5 = 20p 6 = 50p Players take it in turn to throw the dice and add up their score as they go along. The first player to reach exactly one pound wins. If a throw would take you over one pound miss a go then try again next turn. Alter the target amount to suit the age and adding ability of players.
  • If they have their heart set on the latest must-have toy or game, set them a fun pocket money challenge. Set the price of the item as the target and help them work out a plan for achieving their goal by setting money aside. You could make and decorate a chart together than shows how long they will have to save and logs their progress. To help them stick to their goal you could pay top-ups when they hit certain milestones. For example you could offer to top up every £5 they save with an extra £1 – or some other amount that will help them realistically achieve their goal. Start with lower goals to begin with and work up.
  • Board games such as The Game of Life and Monopoly are fantastic for teaching children decision making about money. For tech savvy kids look out for free apps designed to help kids learn money skills.

Keep it real…

  • If you give regular pocket money, set daily, age-appropriate chores that must be completed to earn it. These can be very simple things like making their bed, putting toys back in a tub, feeding their hamster etc. Don’t worry too much about how well they do each job – the point is to make them understand that money has an equivalent value and must be earnt.
  • Create a value-based system for age 8+ to help them earn money from optional extra chores. E.g. clearing the dinner table and stacking the dishwasher earns 20p, watering the garden 10p, washing the car £1 etc. (You might need to set a cap for very motivated children!)
  • Encourage them to put aside some of the money they receive each week. Try the two-jar trick. Create one jar for spending and a jar for saving. The saving jar should always have more in it.
  • Set a healthy example. Limit shopping trips as a leisure activity and cut down on eating out, so that children don’t think money is an unlimited resource. Make the most of ‘free’ activities, such as parks and museums and cook and bake at home.

Tweens and Teens

Past 11 it’s time to start children thinking for themselves about responsible attitudes to saving and why it’s important. Let them get involved in their own decision making and help point out the pros and cons as they go along.

Make it fun…

  • Encourage older children to think ahead to a desirable big-ticket item or fun activity they will really appreciate and incentivise them to reach their target. Give them ‘interest’ on their savings that climbs the more they save. This will teach them valuable lessons on how to save ahead for their goals.
  • Older teens can watch films with lessons about money. The Big Short, Wall Street, Dark Waters, Moneyball and The Pursuit of Happyness are all good choices. Fiction but with an insight to money markets.

Keep it real…

  • Learn to earn. If they want the latest computer game that costs £150, make them calculate how many hours you or the average person would have to work to earn it, to give them some perspective about whether they think it’s worth it.
  • Let them make mistakes. If they overspend on something silly and then have nothing left for the rest of the month, they’ll soon get the hang of it. Resist the temptation to sub them more money.
  • Help them avoid impulse purchases with the 24-hour rule. Make them wait until the next day before going ahead with that unplanned purchase. Once they are away from that particular shop or website it may not seem so essential.