Hands-on Finance for Our Son

It's not always easy to know how to communicate financial lessons to a small child. I let our five-year-old pay for an item at the checkout the other day, and I just got the feeling that he really didn't comprehend the whole payment process. All he seemed to recognize was that he was supposed to hand the bills to the cashier, take the change, and that was that.
Hands-on Finance for Our Son

While I know that he's only just turned five, I also know that in my opinion, the sooner he comprehends what money is, why it's important, and how best to use it, the sooner he can start making informed money decisions and ensure his financial security. Therefore, here are a few of the ways that I've recently begun to increase his awareness of personal finances.

Making it Fun

Now that we live in a very walkable town, we often end up taking morning and evening strolls around the area. With plenty of shops, stores and restaurants around town, it's not unusual to come across loose change on our adventures.

Therefore, we've used this to our advantage when it comes to teaching our son the value of a penny. On our walks, we now make a game of seeing who can collect the most money. Sometimes one of us wins just by finding a single penny. The other night, I won with a collection of 27 cents. Then we come home and put the money in our respective piggy banks.

And no matter who wins or with how much money is found, the game teaches our son that even pennies can add up over time and that saving money can be fun that can even be turned into a game.

Using Money in Teaching

We've also recently started using money for counting exercises now that our son is preparing to enter kindergarten. My wife printed several worksheets off the internet that involved using coins of various denominations to add and subtract. Once our son completed these activities though, I realized just how great they were for teaching not only math, but for learning about money as well.

Therefore, I pulled out the old piggy banks and some blank sheets of paper and started using loose change to create math equations of our own so that our son could continue the math/money learning process.

Communicating

Now that our son is older and more open to two-way communication, I've begun trying to point out to him and explain how much things cost. I've learned that two good ways to do this are with food and utilities.

With food, it's something that we can take for granted but that our son is often present to observe us paying money for. Whether at a restaurant, picking up fast food, or heading out to the grocery store, pointing out prices or taking him with to paying at the checkout register, understanding that the things we consume all cost money, and that making smart food decisions can save us money, are good introductory money lessons for our son.

And we feel that explaining utilities is another great way to point out that even the things we don't even really think about - such as turning on a light or getting a glass of water - cost money. Realizing that each time the air conditioning or furnace comes on, or each time we take a bath or shower, it adds a few cents on to the monthly utility bills helps to instill a better understanding in our son of just how prevalent, yet not necessarily observable, costs in our everyday life can be.

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