Fun With Money

By Robin Lundgren

Start the New Year off by making a resolution to help your kids learn about money. With guidance, even very young children can begin to understand the concepts of making, saving and spending money.

Does your child have a piggy bank? Talk to your child about how they use their piggy bank. Is it mostly filled with coins or bills? Discuss how piggy banks are a place to save money. Then, challenge your child to create his or her own special bank and divide portions of money for saving, spending and donating.

Older children can be encouraged to develop a budget. Begin by discussing with your child the difference between what he needs and what he wants. Then ask your child to identify his “wants,” the things he would like to spend his own money on.

Encourage your child to figure out how he wants to spend his money and to set some long term goals for purchasing bigger ticket items. Help him estimate how long it will take to save up for a wanted video game or toy.

Money management activities teach beneficial lessons children will use throughout their lives.

What you need…

•Three shoeboxes, plastic containers or envelopes

•Paper, pencils, markers and crayons

•Money your child has collected as gifts or allowance

•Items to decorate the bank

What to do….

1. Ask your child to label the boxes, containers or envelopes as Save, Spend and Donate. If desired, decorate the savings bank to make it more personal.

2. Have your child sort and count the money that she has. Ask her to write the total on a piece of paper.

3. Discuss with your child how much of his money he wants to put into each container. Does he want to divide it equally between the three containers? Ask him to figure out how much would go into each container if he did that. Older children can do the division on paper. Younger children can be encouraged to physically separate their coins and bills equally into three piles.

4. Talk about the idea of keeping a little more money to spend, and saving and donating a smaller amount of the whole. Older children will understand and might even have some experience with percentages. With all ages, helping your child physically separate money into three piles will give a visual guide as to how percentages work. Explain to your child, using $20 in dollar bills, how to divide the $20 into three groups where he will save 20%, donate 20% and spend 60%. Help him figure out the amounts using the bills as a hands-on activity.

5. If you don’t already give your child an allowance, consider implementing one after setting up his save, spend, donate system. Decide what amount you will give your child and whether he will be paid weekly or bi-weekly. Ask your child to figure out how much money she will get in one month, two months, six months and one year.

6. Ask your child to decide what percentage of his allowance will go into save, spend and donate. Help your child figure out how much of his allowance to put into each category.

7. Continue to pay your child her allowance and remind her to separate her money into save, spend and donate.

8. Encourage your child to set a goal for something he’d like to buy with his spend fund. When he has enough money for the treasured item, take him shopping. He’ll be thrilled that he was able to save up for something he really wanted!

9. Another great family activity is to consider how to use the “Donate” funds. Saving up for a charitable endeavor is a wonderful way to introduce your child to giving back to others.

Math/Science Connection…

A savings bank is a great way to introduce children to the concept of money math. Young children can learn to recognize coins while older kids can add and subtract money as well as plan for savings goals. To make money concrete for younger children, stack pennies in groups of 5, 10 or 25 to show how pennies relate to other coins.

Having a strong understanding of money and the ability to save for goals will really “pay off” in the long fun.

This monthly family activity series, “Hands-on-Kids!” is brought to you by a partnership between the Children’s Science Center (CSC) and FAMILY Magazine. CSC is committed to building a place where children can grow in their love of learning that will carry them into adulthood. We invite you to visit the CSC website,, where you and your children can “Explore, Create, Inspire.” Robin Lundgren, a CSC volunteer, is a freelance writer and Vice President of Aquarian Entertainment.


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