All parents worry about their children and their financial futures.

Teaching children about money, how it works, how it’s earned, and its precious value is something that can be started much earlier on in a kid’s life than most parents realize. Experts agree the sooner we start to teach them about money, the better! An early start is key to healthy, smart, money habits for life. Even with kids as young as four years old, you can begin to introduce them to some super-simple money concepts!

In this blog, you’ll find fun activities that are great for a variety of ages. We’ve also included the why behind them so you can do your best while teaching fin lit (our slang for financial literacy) to your children.

Activity #1 – Tell AND Show

In this digital age of money, children are exposed to the easy-peasy ‘tap’ method of payment. This is how a simple wave of a credit or debit card over a mysterious device equals payment for something.

If children don’t understand what’s actually happening in these transactions, it can lead to a belief that the card has an unlimited supply of money, that it possesses magical powers, or even that the items purchased are free because there was no visual representation of money exchanging hands. We interviewed kids on this topic specifically and heard everything from, “The bank card is a money gun and it shoots out money when you put it into the machine”, to, “The numbers on the card is how much money you have. The machine scrapes off the numbers and puts new ones on to show how much you have now.”

Kids and their imaginations.

Clearly, this is something that needs to be explained ASAP!

To demonstrate to your kids how tap to pay works, log into your bank account after a trip to the store with your children. With receipt in hand to match up the amount and show them that the exact amount on the receipt was taken from your bank account and show that your balance is less than before the transaction. Explain that there is no way to get the money back and that you’ve traded the money for the items.

Activity #2Demonstrate a Cash Exchange

In addition to sharing how the digital exchange works, it’s important to use cash to demonstrate that money is something that is traded for something else.

This can be accomplished by taking your children to a vending machine and giving them some coins to make a purchase. They can select an item and visually see that the money is gone, and that they now have the item. A perfect example of a cash exchange for a little one to take part in.

You could also take your child to a convenience store with a few coins in hand, let them choose an item they want, and have them take the chosen item u

p to the cashier to pay by themselves. This can be intimidating for kids at first, but they’ll get the hang of it and gain confidence along the way too. After the transaction, they should have some change that you can explain and compare against the receipt to show that they have less money than they did before.

The Bunnies Talk Money is a fantastic children’s book that is full of info. and activities so children can learn the different values of Canadian coins. It’s a great way to get started with fin lit!

Activity #3 – Sell Something You No Longer Need

Selling something you no longer need can teach children that items still have value, and that value can be translated into money as opposed to throwing things away… IF a little effort is applied. This can be taught in the form of a small yard sale or an online sale with parental supervision.

If you decide to sell items online, parents should help to post something and manage the transaction completely for safety reasons. Your child can still help to take the photos, choose the items they are willing to part with, set the price, and write out the description so that they’re still doing their part!

If your child is an active participant in the process, they’ll learn to let go of things they no longer need, experience the work of organizing the task, and reap the rewards of money they can save, spend, or share.

If your family is inspired by decluttering and spring cleaning, make a yard sale an annual family event!

Activity #4 – The Takeout Food Challenge

Ordering takeout food can be a fun family treat occasionally; but sometimes, it’s difficult for children to fully understand the reason why—in a budget-conscious family—we can’t just SkipTheDishes, order pizza, or go to restaurants on a regular basis.

The good news is there is a really easy way show them the difference between a grocery-shopped, home-cooked meal and takeout or restaurant dining experience! We suggest that you grocery shop for the ingredients needed to make a meal that you would typically order for delivery or in a restaurant. A pizza is an easy one, and it makes for some great quality time, tossing dough, dropping on toppings, singing and dancing…well maybe J, but choose something your family likes to order.

While you’re enjoying the meal, bring out the grocery receipt and compare what it cost you to make the meal vs. what it would have cost to order out. You can cross-check the prices by viewing a restaurant menu online or on a food delivery service app, such as SkipTheDishes to show the true cost. Be sure to incorporate the tax, tip, parking, and anything else that would have been associated with a takeout or restaurant meal.

The most important part is to have a family discussion and ask thought-provoking questions, such as:

  1. Guess what the difference will be?
  2. Were you surprised to learn how much it costs to eat in a restaurant?
  3. Do you think it’s important to save money by cooking at home?

Encourage your kids to share their opinions too!

Completing the activity and openly talking about it can help solidify the teachings in their mind. It’s ok for children to learn that a family operates on a budget that they work hard to stay within. This doesn’t need to create stress for them, but rather help them to understand that there are parameters and reasons for the purchasing decisions we make. It might sound a little heavy, but they can handle it!

Activity #5 – Play Some Games!

It’s difficult to find a child who doesn’t love a good game night, so take advantage of the captive audience that board games bring to the dining table. Games are so much fun, kids often don’t realize that they are learning as they go. Classic games like Pay Day, the Game of Life, and Monopoly all use money to advance throughout the game. These board games can help build counting skills, show how to assess value, and even show how different jobs can produce different salaries.

Not a board game household? No problem! Head online to find some age-appropriate money games. There are games online that provide content to pre-schoolers, elementary kids, and even teenagers. There’s content for kids at any stage of their financial literacy journey that will keep them engaged and learning.

Off You Go!

All of these activities are simple and low-cost ways to teach money lessons to your children. Every experience with money counts for kids and will shape the way they view money for their lifetime. Why not get started this month by challenging yourself to complete a few of these activities and start building financial literacy today?

Share your activities, progress, and ‘aha!’ moments! We’d love for you to tag us, use #FinLit, and share a photo on social media.