Parents realize early on how much their children copy them, want to be like them, and absorb everything they see us say and do; yes, even the older ones! By the time the kids are in primary grades, what we used to call grammar school (grades 1-4 roughly), they’ve already formed most of the attitudes towards money that they will hold as adults. But it’s never too late to embrace new ideas and new habits, as our kids will notice the changes we embrace.
Continuing on from our kindergarten segment, there are many practical activities you can do for and especially with your primary-aged child. Here are more steps you can take to help your kids learn important financial lessons.
Steps With Primary Children
Just as with kindergarteners, your primary-aged children will be very interested in understanding money and learning those skills. They have realized by this age, how many important features of your life, and theirs, revolves around money (too much? too little?), and they want to be a part of the action.
Continue with the skill-building needed to understand monetary transactions. This is the age when children learn to use numbers, count, compute (add, subtract, and eventually multiply and divide). Help them acquire an early understanding of how we use numbers, and to develop an automaticity with number skills (arithmetic). The sooner they grasp that 10 is far less than 100, or that 100 is the same as ten tens, and 1000 is one hundred tens, for example, the sooner they can learn to estimate, and also to round up numbers to help them with calculations. The benefit of getting some basic number concepts truly internalized early, is that they’ll be able to better understand why some costly choices are better/worse than others. They can compare numbers, and value, once they understand those numbers, and how they work.
Comment On Your Money ChoicesAs valuable as specific focussed conversations can be on the topic of money, it is often the regular, daily comments and feedback that will have a huge impact on your children. These frequently occur when you are handling or talking about ‘everyday’ tasks and decisions around money. Continue to involve your children in your money-managing, shopping, and banking tasks, as you did in their toddler years.
At this age, you definitely want to express to them, your reasons for choosing one thing over another. They don’t need to always understand all of the arithmetic involved, but you can say things like, “this is much more expensive than this one,” or “this soccer net is much more expensive than the other one but it’s stronger, so it’s worth it.” You’ll find they often ask the questions that are at their level of understanding.
Then, it can get a little more complex, as they become more skilled with understanding monetary value, and intrinsic value. When buying a new lawnmower, explain the value of looking for one with a stronger, longer-lasting motor. Offer reasons for buying a certain package-size of toilet paper over another (you have no space for more, or conversely, you have space and are trying to save by buying more at the same time). If you go to get a haircut, explain why you selected a certain hair salon over another as it relates to value for your money.
At this age, lots of practice counting real or pretend money is very beneficial, and will produce that automaticity that helps so much.
There are plenty of activity options available online, with a variety of practice activities, games, and more songs and rhymes (even adults learn well with those). Look for activities that are clearly sequenced by levels, (most often by grade) to help make the selection quicker and easier for you.
At this age, start out simple, but gently increase the complexity of the mathematical tasks they can participate in. Follow along with their math class, and apply those concepts to money whenever possible. Practice activities don’t have to be specifically about money, as long as it helps them understand mathematical concepts.
Follow-up shopping activities with structured practice, to help your child solidify the lessons obtained during, say, your recent outing to the grocery store.
For example: you looked at two items, to see which one is cheaper/more costly; you wondered which package of your favorite cookies is a better deal (once they can understand the idea of multiplying, and concepts like double, triple). As they learn their basic computation skills, you can have them estimate the total costs for items in your cart (be it in person or online).
An excellent tool of course, is for your child to have their own piggy bank and bank account. You will need to guide them through what each one does, and how they work. Those simple concepts have a profound effect on children. Kids don’t have much control over their lives (understandably), so showing them how they can actually save up money to buy an approved treat, or by not spending what’s in their piggy bank for awhile, will teach them how valuable that delayed gratification can be in controlling and obtaining their own goals.
Just another step into a larger world…
Our kids need to be prepared to make good choices, so they need to know as much as possible. Withholding this information is not a benefit to them. Yet putting too great an emphasis on it will create a very different problem.
So think carefully which outcome you hope for your children, and let that focus direct you. Check back next month when we cover the next big step in financial literacy for children - investing for them!