Money Games for Kids
Have fun while teaching money management
December 10, 2013 by Mark Dye
As a parent of a 9-year-old, I know that getting kids interested in learning about something like money can be…challenging. You don’t want to be all preachy or, even worse, boring. So I’ve found (and have used) a few games, activities, and websites that can make it a lot easier on you and a lot more fun for your kids, no matter their age.
Pre-K to 2nd grade
- Counting game—As soon as they can start to count, introduce your child to the different forms money can take by making a counting game: how many pennies do they have? How many nickels? How much do you have when it’s all added up?
- Store—Give your child some money (real or play is fine) and have them go shopping for their own toys. Sure, that Lego® set might’ve cost you a pretty penny in real life, but charging your child a dollar for it is more reasonable for this game. This teaches them what money is used for and how it works.
- Online options—There are a number of websites that provide free and fun games, such as a special section on Nick Jr.’s website and at PBS Kids.
- Points game—This is what we currently use for our son. Basically, one point equals a penny, and he can earn points a variety of ways (e.g., behaving well when we’re out to dinner, doing extra around the house). We keep tabs of his points and act as his banker—when he wants to take out a few dollars to buy a small toy, he cashes in some of his points. We even pay him a bit of interest: 5% of the balance he has each month to teach him the concept of how a bank actually works. A few things to consider:
- Encourage them—Ask them to save up their points (ours saved for a $100 Star Wars toy) to teach them to save up for what they want.
- Don’t hand out more points than you can afford—Make sure to add those points to your budget so you’re ready for when your child wants to cash them in (like, for example, on a $100 Star Wars toy).
- Make it an ongoing process—Don’t have a set ending and discourage them from cashing out the entire amount unless necessary.
- Online options—KidsWorth.com essentially does the same as our point game, but adds the power of social media and introduces the concept of philanthropy. You and your children can set goals, share with family and friends who can help contribute, and track progress.
- In-home credit card—Create a “credit card” for them to use (a fun art project) to “buy” certain things or privileges, such as getting out of doing a chore that week or staying up an extra hour. The catch? They’ll have to do two chores within a certain time frame (which acts as interest) or lose a privilege (which acts as a penalty for non-payment). This teaches them about the concept of how a credit card works and why putting something off now and paying later is not always the best idea. It also lets them know that not paying the debt has consequences.
- Shopping contest—Using groceries or a school supply list, have them price out what each item is going to cost, while you do the same. If they manage to save more money than you, they are rewarded (and it doesn’t have to be monetary, either—staying up late could be an option). If you save more, show them how you did it. This teaches them to comparison shop for the best value.
- Online options—Once again, online learning abounds for kids this age, such as Kids.gov, which is an official government website offering a wealth of resources. Another is called Practical Money Skills that, while not specifically for kids, has a wealth of resources and info on teaching kids the basics of money management.
Teenagers are past the point of simple money games, but there are still options.
- The car—This is a game a friend of mine had to play before he got his driver’s license. Short version: he was given a hypothetical budget to buy a car, which was quite fun for him at first. But then he had to take into account things like insurance, gas, and taxes, and what it would take to pay for them all. This meant he had to figure out how many hours he’d need to work at a hypothetical job, and at what salary, to correctly pay for and maintain the vehicle. It took him a while, but he eventually created a workable budget, including the cost of the car and how much he’d have to make and then save each month to cover the related expenses. It was a good way to show just how much is involved and let his parents know he was ready for the responsibility.
- Online options—Sites such as Practical Money Skills have games for the high school set, such as a Financial Football Game sponsored by Visa that adds the fun of football to the mix, a Road Trip to Savings, and even a Countdown to Retirement game that shows how long it takes to save up. Because this is also a good age to teach them about compounding interest, TheMint.org has some good information and games that do a really good job explaining how compound interest works.
Teaching kids smart money skills is a great way to set them up for a lifetime of financial success. And who knows—you might even learn something yourself along the way.