5 fun ways to teach your kids about money

Learning money skills sets your kids on the road to financial independence – but no, you don’t have to sit them down in front of the TV for the Budget Speech! We’ve found some fun activities that won’t make them roll their eyes, and that might even be fun for you too.

Everyday family life offers many opportunities to talk about and learn about money in fun and practical ways.  Money shouldn’t be a taboo subject that grown-ups never talk about in front of the kids. Rather, let’s pass on financial wisdom and advice when we can, in age-appropriate ways. We focused on children aged 5 to 12, as these are important years to learn basic money concepts, but some of these ideas will also be relevant for younger and older children. Give them a try!

1. Use pizza night to explain budgets

Pizza night is a fun family time, and also a good opportunity to sneak in a lesson on budgeting. Explain that your pizza represents all the money you have for the month – your budget. Every month you divide your budget up so that you pay your different expenses, just as you divide your pizza up among family members. Some expenses get a bigger ‘slice’ of your budget because some costs are higher than others. For example, you spend more on your home loan than you spend on food. This is like splitting your pizza up among your family members – teens and adults need a bigger slice than preschoolers. You can also point out that there isn’t an endless supply of money, when it’s gone – it’s gone. Just like the pizza!

2. Send them on a course

An online course is an interactive, entertaining way for kids to learn about money, and it keeps them busy! Sending your kids on a course about money also shows them just how important you think money skills are. A bit of online research will turn up plenty of options. Look for courses that are age or grade appropriate and get your children doing hands-on money activities. MoneySavvyKids is a locally developed financial literacy course with modules for kids from Grade 0 to Grade 7.  “We keep it simple and give kids money-related activities to do, such as drawing up a budget using a specific amount of money,” says Candice Preston, MoneySavvyKids franchise owner, author and schoolteacher. The course introduces basic money and financial concepts like needs and wants, keeping money safe, earning and spending, investing, debt and so on – even cryptocurrency! MoneySavvyKids costs R600 for a 6-week course. There are other courses, such as StarSaver, which are free. Your budding entrepreneur may even use the skills they learn on their course to set up their own enterprise and earn some money.

3. Share a story

Kids love stories and there are some wonderful books that touch on the subject of money. Financial planner and mom Gugu Sidaki has written three books featuring 5-year-old Nala, a character based on her own daughter, titled Nala and the Save Piggy Bank, Nala and the Invest Piggy Bank and Nala and the Share Piggy Bank. Nala learns about money and how to use it as she shops with her mom for groceries, earns money for chores and spends the money she has earned. Find more information on these books here. Christina Castle’s book More than Enough follows Anele, a squirrel, as her mom shows her how to collect acorns, store them, share them and grow them so there will be acorns in the years ahead. The book is in four South African languages and is a good introduction to the concepts of saving and investing. Find more information here. Top tip: Looking for opportunities to make money education part of your family life? The Raising Money Savvy Kids ebook is full of ideas to help parents teach kids about money.

4. Pop to the shops

A visit to the shops is an excellent opportunity to get young ones interested in what they can do with their money, and how far it goes. If they have some pocket money or birthday money saved up, take them to the shops to spend it on something they want. Show them how to find the price on an item and see if they have enough money to buy it, or if they need to earn or save a bit more or look for a cheaper item. Being able to pay for something yourself is one of the earliest memories of financial independence. Plus, giving your child something to do at the shops might make shopping a little more interesting for them – and prevent one or two tantrums! You can also play a game of shop at home. Set up ‘shop’ with toys or other items from your cupboards and make price stickers for them. Your child can select and pay for the items at the shop, counting out play money or real money to pay. Take turns being the shopper, and the shopkeeper who ‘sells’ the merchandise, takes payment money and gives change.

5. Play a game

There are many games you can play with your children that deal with money. Here are some options:

  • Monopoly: An old one, but still a great way to have fun managing money, buying and renting property – and learning about different places
  • The Game of Life and The Game of Life Junior: A boardgame that mimics real life where players have paydays and buy houses and other items along their life journey
  • Cash Flow for Kids: A boardgame that teaches kids how to manage money
  • Financial football: Okay, this one is American, but so many experts recommended it, we included it as an option. Visa and the National Football League (NFL), teamed up to help teach financial concepts and money management skills with a fast-paced, interactive game that’s free to download online or via the app

You can visit your local toy store online or in person to find these and other money-related board games. Some of them are US-based and use US money. These can still teach good money lessons, although you need to explain to your child there are different currencies in the world – also a good money lesson to learn! And remember, any games that require some maths skills can be good for building money smart children.

Top tip: Board games can be pricey, so consider sharing them with other families, friends or neighbours.

Make money fun

Children are born entrepreneurs – adventurous, curious, fearless and stubborn – but they aren’t born good money managers. You can help them learn these skills and have lots of fun on their journey to becoming money savvy.

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