Don’t Stay Mum on Money, Mum! Part Three

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

What a wonderful age! The little bright sparks are developing opinions and coming home from school to excitedly tell you about what they learned in class – which is usually completely trivial and beside the pointof the teacher – never-the-less, they’re passionate about it, to the point that they’re barely able to get the words out and from their partly toothed mouths comes mostly saliva and incomprehensible words.

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Ages 6-8: What to Communicate and How

What a wonderful age! The little bright sparks are developing opinions and coming home from school to excitedly tell you about what they learned in class – which is usually completely trivial and beside the point of the teacher – never-the-less, they’re passionate about it, to the point that they’re barely able to get the words out and from their partly toothed mouths comes mostly saliva and incomprehensible words. What joy! Whether they like to speak more or listen more, won’t matter. The exercise of opening a line of communication with your children is what is important. If you’ve followed this blog series, you would have learned a few tricks to establish money as a comfortable topic and begun the process of removing its status as taboo. If you’re only just joining us and your children are already at the ages between 6 and 8, you don’t need to worry. The best time to start teaching your children about money is not a specific age – it is now! Feel free to go back and read parts one and two, as they withhold interesting concepts and ideas that can and, in most cases, should be continued through the current age in discussion and into older age groups discussed in future posts.

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Take Me to the Bank

Understandably, children between the ages of 6 and 8 are very interested about the real world, even if they understand it about as well as senior citizens understand social media and cell phones. You may very well have brought them to the bank or ATM already, with or without the intention of teaching them a thing or two about the stressful but magical money-printing buildings. It is time you introduced them to the dreaded financial institutions and their real purpose. We know very well by now that financial knowledge decays, so bringing them back to the bank at this age is still a good idea, even if your children drove you close to closing your bank accounts and living off the grid the last time you all took a family trip to the bank.

Go with the intention of opening them a savings account, if you haven’t already. The convenience of opening a bank account for them at this age is their willing and fulfilling involvement in the process. What would make this experience all the richer, is if they have been receiving an allowance in cash or they have earned some money by doing chores. Children between the ages of 6 and 8 are sworn believers that they are but a few days away from adulthood and they are totally responsible, despite the daily evidence to the contrary. So, the combination of earning or receiving money and then the depositing of said money into their very own bank account can be quite special for both you and your budding future entrepreneur, or lawyer, or professional stunt artist. Demonstrate the processes of depositing money and withdrawing it as well and to run home the purpose of the bank account, set savings goals with him or her and then discuss the importance of it to the best of your ability. Don’t worry if you struggle to articulate the activity and don’t worry if their confused little faces remain so for the rest of the day. In time, you will learn how best to speak with your children about complex subjects and they will come to understand everything. Don’t back away from trying and keep having the discussions regularly so that you both get the necessary practice. If nothing else works at first, end it off by saying “good things come to those who wait” and let them make of it what they will.

If your child is closer to 8 and further from 6, perhaps trying to explain interest and credit and the pros and cons of the latter, along with payment schemes, could be fun (and by fun I mean amusingly terrifying). Cite examples of when you – as the parent – opted for saving instead of spending. For instance, you could have regularly got dessert for after supper treats, but instead you saved for a family vacation. The interest earned on the savings allowed their little brother or sister to come along and a payment scheme may very well have allowed you to secure accommodation in advance. I repeat, don’t give up if there is a misunderstanding. Give it time and practice and both you and your children will develop a healthy relationship and open line of communication regarding money and finance.

Money for Work

When you’re done bringing your darling opinionated cherubs to the bank and you are still an active member of society after the events, then try something perhaps a little more daring. If you are brave enough to bring your children to work – best suited, of course, for scheduled Bring Your Children to Work Day events, if the company you work for offers such a thing; or if your life is not like a Hollywood family movie and you’re going to need to sneak your squeak in – do so with the intention of discussing why people have jobs and, for the most part, work. Show them what you do and explain to them why. Have them participate, unless it’s highly irresponsible. For instance if you’re a window cleaner that specializes in skyscraper buildings. Give them a task they’ll enjoy, such as filing papers alphabetically or by colour, counting stationary stock or give them the tools to draw a picture depicting what you do at your job. Compare your job to the chores they are possible doing at home and your income to their allowance. Tell them about the many different ways one can earn an income and quiz them about what they would like to do one day in order to make money. If you like, explain the difference between wages and salaries, even though it may very well go over their heads. Who knows, perhaps they’ll race home to mum or dad to gargle out who earns a wage and who earns a salary. More than likely, they’ll remember which colour pens you do or don’t have. Either way, they were involved and they learned a little something about the work place and its importance. Ultimately, the message you want to get across to the toothless wonders, is that money does not grow on trees. Demonstrate this to them and plant a few coins in a flower pot and wait for their inevitable disappointment with a well-rehearsed consolation – like making a coin appear from behind their ear (or something else perceivably magical yet harmless).

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Games & Activities

Right, before I run you the risk of boring your children with real world activities such as those I mentioned above, here are some recommendations for more child-orientated games and activities. Not to suggest that the activities I suggested earlier were mind-numbing and useless. They are equally important, but I understand that bringing your children to banks and work places and discussing interest rates and wages aren’t particularly exciting and are more taxing on the frenetic lives of responsible adults. So, to restore your sanity and a conventional relationship with your children, I have found a few age appropriate games and activities that your children may enjoy and may learn something from too. Before I get started, let it be known that there are dozens of games and activities available and I appreciate that some children may cope better with less advanced games and some could prefer more advanced games. The following activities are simply the popular ones for 6 to 8 year-olds and ones that I have chosen to elaborate on. I encourage parents to search online for more, and perhaps even better, games for their children. Being involved more is far more rewarding, I would think.

Coin collecting! Here’s a hobby straight out of the pre-computer gaming era, when TVs were longer than they were wider and had little-to-no children’s programs, let alone channels and least of all 8 or 9 to choose from. If you can encourage your contemporary child to collect coins, I would be immensely impressed. The trick, I think, is to get coins that are not of the local currency and especially not abundant and practically useless. There’s no fun in collecting hundreds of dirty five cent coins. That just seems like a bona fide mess and a dead end activity. I’d go so far as to say it would guarantee a setback in all that you are hoping to achieve through teaching your children about money. So, if you’re a travelling family or have a job that allows you to traverse the globe and visit exotic and new countries with fascinating currencies, here’s a nice bonding activity. Bring back interesting and different coins to form a collection and make a project out of it with some facts about the respective countries the myriad of coins come from. Plant the seed of wonder and the desire to see the world simply by bringing back loose change from faraway lands. If you have family or friends that live abroad, guilt them into participating and grow or establish your collection that way. It may sound mundane in the modern era, but coin collecting is about far more than collecting tiny monetary discs. It’s got geography, it’s got history, and it’s about travel and culture, to mention just a few things. It’s also about expanding the minds of the young and establishing bonds with them.

Another seemingly mundane task, but one that is more important than any other, and one I have mentioned before. Counting. Besides reading and writing, is there anything more valuable for a child’s development? Okay, love and their health are two things, but let’s just say, when it comes to learning about money, counting is the most important. Have them count anything you can think of, and things resembling money or connected to money would be of greater value for establishing their understanding, comfort and confidence on the subject. Count coins. Count groceries. Count shops, tills, and bills. Count how many teeth have fallen out and how much the tooth fairy gave in return for their grubby little fangs. Count everything. And if you’re busy, have them count the stars or grains of sugar in a bowl.

Back to the coin theme, there is another neat activity to test your little geniuses with. It’s the Coin Clock. I am not sure if that is the official name of the game, but let’s just call it that. The Coin Clock can teach two important concepts in one go. Winner! If your child is ready to learn, or hasn’t already learned, how to tell the time, teach them by drawing a basic clock with the mandatory circle and the two crucial hands. You can choose to add the numbers or not, that’s up to you, either way, the idea is to have coins represent the numbers and thus the time on the clock. On each number, 1 to 12, he or she must place the right amount of coins of the number they occupy. For instance, 1 coin on the number one, 7 on the seven, 11 on the eleven, etc. You get what I’m saying. Then you go about the standard time teaching tasks, which I don’t exactly feel I need to get into.

If you want something to do with counting that is a little more money orientated and provides a lesson that counting how many times you can fold a bank note won’t necessarily provide, try the Budget game, or better yet, the Budget-Budget game. See what I did there? Anyway, it may seem a bit cruel, but I assure you that if your motives are sound, it’s not as cruel as it appears. Grant your child, or children, with any amount of money and take them shopping. You could offer them their allowance money, money given to them by friends or family, or you could simply give them the cash for the sheer sake of the activity. Either way, they have a fixed amount, with which they take to the any store of yours or their choice. There, they must choose what they want to buy within the bounds of their budget. If they choose one thing and can’t afford another, tough luck. It is easier if you take them to two or more stores to avoid any loop holes, such as swapping items before they’re paid for. Alternatively, you can challenge them by proposing two or more items you know very well they can’t afford if bought together. Whichever way you play it, the end result would force them to accept that if it is not in the budget it is not going to be purchased. The reality is harsh, but it was always going to be. And provided the children are comforted throughout the experience, they would have learned a valuable lesson about money and budgets. It may even help your cause the next time you take your children shopping with you and your budget doesn’t allow for anything they want, be it a horse, a Disney magazine or a green lollipop. Make it really interesting by charging them a car fare – if you’re driving them to the store. Another condition could be that they are required to donate a percentage of their money to a charity, provided there’s charity tins available, of course.

The games, Menu Math and Real World Math, are two more examples of counting games that could be applicable. For the latter, all you need is a catalogue of a local store that is conveniently hidden in your recently purchased newspaper. Get your eager beavers to circle the items they like and count how much it costs using basic addition. This is perhaps more suitable for those closer to 8 and further from 6, but as I’ve said before, all children are different and there are those 11 year-old astrophysicists that did this when they were 4 months old. Like the Real World Math activity, Menu Math is challenging, but could be more fun than the former. All you need is any one of the many take-out menus you have stashed in a kitchen draw or tauntingly pinned to your fridge. At first, I encourage you, the parent or adult, to be the server in a restaurant like enactment, so the youngster may watch and learn. Simply present the menu, have the child or children choose their dishes and drinks and help them tally up the grand total. Present them with change after the payment, should it be required. When the roles are reversed, encourage them to do the necessary math to form the bill by themselves and watch as they take to the activity with enthusiasm and intelligence. Remember, if something goes wrong, it is naturally your fault and never theirs at this age.

Another creative activity is the Needs and Wants game. Get two large pieces of colour paper, draw large money bags or sacks and then cut them out. Add the detailed features and label them each “Needs” and “Wants”. Using the aforementioned catalogues and pages from old magazines, get them to cut out items that could be categorized as a need or a want and have them stick the cut-outs onto the sack-shaped card that they think is appropriate. Some informative guidance is required from your part so as to help them understand what they’re doing and learn the difference between a need and a want.

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Lastly, there are board games available that teach good lessons and provide much entertainment, and though there are many, I am only going to touch on one. Monopoly. Rather, Junior Monopoly. The timeless board game has been adapted to suit children and that involves both the theme and the rules, with it still maintaining the classic monopoly concept. It has been simplified to a level that kids can relate to and is recommended for ages 5 to 8. Bang on! The changes are as follows:instead of a property market, the game takes place in an amusement park (a bit more relatable to children); instead of building houses and collecting rent, players build ticket booths and charge admission; players don’t trade to form sets; instead, there are chance cards that allow you to take ticket booths off other players; instead of being forced to Go to Jail, players Catch the Bus to the Café; and instead of $200 salary, players collect $2 pocket money as they pass Go. This is just one of many, many versions of the game. I noticed there’s themed ones, such as Disney’s Sofia the First, etc. However, nothing beats the classic version as children grow out of themes such as the princess one I mentioned. Ultimately, the game is fun. And by fun, I mean any one can win. Yes, there’s a tiny bit of strategy, but the idea is for it to allow any child to win. Because, put it this way, if children aren’t winning, they aren’t having fun and the game will get very old, very fast.

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Books

Books are a universal treasure. People young and old and of all walks of life at some point do, did or will enjoy them. They are invaluable. And the knowledge they withhold equally so. Since they are both educational and entertaining, I am obviously going to recommend a couple catered for this particular age group and the general theme of this blog series. As it is with games, there are dozens, better yet, there are hundreds of other books available that will one way or another aid in teaching your children about money, be it through counting, sharing possessions, or creating crafts, etc. The first book is – surprize, surprize – a Dr. Seuss book. In fact, it was written by Bonnie Worth, but it 100% up the good doctor’s alley, it being One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cents: All About Money (Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library). I need not sell Dr. Seuss – his reputation for insightful and joyful reading is well known and Bonnie Worth doesn’t veer from the well-known style of writing at all. Children and adults alike love Dr. Seuss – if I may be so bold as to say. So, you can’t go wrong there. The other book I’m going to squeeze into this already long blog post is The Coin Counting Book by Rozanne Lanczak Williams. With an unflattering yet appropriate cover that is a collage of coins, inside is a wonderfully insightful introduction to money catered for young minds. The #1 Best Seller is a good bet and a good investment, so if you’re in the market for educational books for your children, especially with Christmas around the corner, The Coin Counting Book is the way to go.

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By Clinton Walker

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