Help kids discover the value of money and watch it grow

Conversations with kids about buying stuff are about as common--even relentless--and potentially as challenging as the “I’m bored/how much farther is it/are we almost there” exchanges of road trips. One of the money bits goes like this:

“Mommy, can I get this?”

“No, honey, it costs too much.”

“Then write a check!”

The concept of money that is out of sight—not cash in hand, purse, or wallet—is understandably very abstract for kids. Plunking down plastic, scribbling on a check, or pressing numbers on a keypad all seem a bit magical and extremely doable.

In 2013, Laura Shin, a Forbes contributor, wrote “The 5 Most Important Money Lessons to Teach Your Kids.” In it she remarks on the lack of in-school training and offers excellent ideas for teaching kids of various ages about money, extensively quoting Beth Kobliner, author of the New York Times bestseller Get a Financial Life. Kobliner is also a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability who spearheaded the creation of Money as You Grow, selected by the American Library Association as one of its best websites for kids. The site has the tag line/subtitle, “20 Things Kids Need to Know to Live Financially Smart Lives,” and offers age-appropriate money lessons for children.

Kobliner says, “The sooner parents start taking advantage of everyday teachable money moments (for example, give a six-year-old $2 and let her choose which fruit to buy), the better off our kids will be." Another one of the earliest and most important lessons about buying/spending is that we sometimes have to wait for something we want. Kobliner says, “You really can’t start too early.” For example, she suggests when buying a birthday gift for another child, emphasize that “We’re here to buy a gift for X, and we’re not going to buy anything for you, because we’re not here for that.”

Looking at the opposite side of the parental “lessons” coin, Amy Morin, another Forbes contributor, wrote “Teaching Kids About Money: Research Reveals the 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make.” She suggests that one of the biggest mistakes is “Parents avoid conversations about money matters.” In fact, the post cites research showing that “A whopping 74% of parents said they have some reluctance to discuss financial topics with their kids.”

Alpha Mom is “a consumer lifestyle brand, new media and research company for moms and moms-to-be” founded and run by Isabel Kallman, and named a “Power Mom” source by Parents Magazine severa years ago. It includes a blog post titled “Helping Your Kids Understand the Value of Money and the Importance of Saving,” authored by Chris Jordan, mother of 7. She includes tips on budgeting, saving, and letting kids make and live with their own money mistakes.

Of course, the starting point for learning about money is recognizing cash value, and this should begin in preschool and continue through the early grades. A few tools for doing that include Time, Money, & Fractions 1-2 Deluxe Edition Workbook, designed for first and second graders, which is also available in a Canadian Edition; the Time, Money & Fractions On-Track app for Android and iPad; and Time & Money Flash Cards, also available in a Canadian version.

Solid money lessons are something kids can count on for the rest of their lives.