Your kids are bright, active, curious little beings and money is a part of their world. Maybe they are asking financial questions that you don't know the best way to answer or maybe you want to make sure that your kids have the financial literacy skills they need to be successful in the real world. Whatever your motivation, you are looking for activities you can do with your kids which will address their questions and help them to be confident with the financial realities of our world.
So, what are the things that make activities effective and what should you be looking for in order to increase the impact of the lessons that you are teaching your children?
What follows are some guidelines for how to choose money activities for your kids and some suggestions about what will make those lessons stick!
Make It Fun:
My parents were very focused on teaching me about financial literacy. But the lessons that really took hold were the ones which were fun and offered an interesting intellectual challenge. For instance, my parents taught me to budget by taking me to the food court and giving me a five dollar bill. I was allowed to buy anything that I wanted, but I was not allowed to exceed the five dollar budget. This was fun, and it offered an interesting intellectual challenge (i.e. how do I get the meal I want - and still have money left over for dessert?).
To the contrary, the lessons that were forced didn't stick as well and in some cases I feel resistant to those principles even though I know they are sensible things to do. As an example, my Dad used to sit me down in front of Quicken and make me reconcile my receipts on a monthly basis - I hated it - and my Dad had to nag me to get me to do it. It's not that I don't do this now, but because I felt pressured (badgered really) I, to this day, have a negative response every time I sit down to do this.
My advice, keep things light, make them into a game or a challenge were possible and avoid nagging.
Make It Hands On:
Edgar Dale's Cone of Learning states that we remember:
- 10% of what we read
- 20% of what we hear
- 30% of what we see
- 50% of what we see and hear
- 70% of what we say
- and a whopping 90% of what we say and do!
If you want your kids to remember something then you need to make it active, hands on, and then you need to get them to tell you about it. Activities where they makes something (a craft, model, presentation, game) are going to have a greater impact than if you were to give them four lectures! How's that for bang for your educational buck?
This doesn't have to be complicated you can simply issue a challenge to your child and get them to show you if and why something is important. They then research the question and create a presentation or a game to illustrate what they find. An additional benefit to this strategy is that you can have a much deeper discussion with your children on the topic because they know more about it than they did before and more likely than not they are already hooked.
Consider The Context:
Nothing has more impact than the exact right information, at the exact right time presented in the exact right way. Listen to the things your kids are saying and asking. Then find activities which will give them the answers, information or skills they are looking for.
Example, when I was ten I desperately wanted a ghetto blaster (stereo, for those non-nineties children). My Dad used that opportunity to teach me how to save up, research different brands of stereos, consider my specific needs and shop around for the right stereo. I remember being really proud of that ghetto blaster I'd saved for it, shopped for it, waited for it and the next thing I knew I was making mixed tapes with ease!
My point is, things tend to leave a greater impression when it happens in the correct context. In the teaching profession we called them "teachable moments". They are those magical times when your child wants something (an item, information, an answer to a question) and you have the exact right response - educational bulls eye!
Practice, Practice, Practice:
Repetition and practice, without becoming tedious, are important ways to ensure your lessons are getting through to your child. Don't be afraid to have your child try something more than once or at regular intervals. They will become more confident and competent at the activity every time they try. There are also new lessons, perspectives and conversations to be explored every time you do something.
If you are confronted with the, "but we've already done this" whine, challenge your kids to do it again but do it even better than the first time!
Make Sure It's Accurate:
You want to make sure that the activity is giving your kids good, up to date, financially sound information. Anytime that you are going to do a money activity with your kids you will personally want to do it first. Imagine that you succeed in helping your child ingrain a financial principle or financial information that is incorrect or misguided, it could have negative long term effects.
You can't really control what your kids will take away from any given money activity. What you can control is how you present money activities for your kids and their attitudes towards money in the long run.
For fun, hands on and engaging money activities for your kids take a look at our TrueSmarts Academy. Your children can earn points and badges while improving their financial literacy skills and entrepreneurial attitudes.
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