You, your kids and money

Ideas and activities to help your child learn about money

Did you know that how you manage money is the most important influence on how your child will deal with it in adult life? What’s more, they start to learn this in early childhood.

This page has videos and activities to help parents like you teach your child the habits that lead to being a money-savvy adult.

The activities are designed to be entertaining as well as educational. Take a look and then have fun doing them together.

1. Where we learn our money habits

This section will help you think about how your child learns about money.

It will also help to spark conversations about money between the two of you.

Research shows that how we behave around money as adults is learned early on from our parents.

Activity - Money is all around us:

  • Talk to your child about how their favourite TV characters treat money.
  • How much of what the characters do costs money, even if they’re not shown handing it over?
  • Which of them are good role models in their attitude towards money and which aren’t?

Activity - Peer pressure:

  • Get out all your child’s ‘must have’ items bought over the last few years.
  • For each item, ask why they wanted it and how often they’ve used it.
  • This teaches them that wanting what friends have is different from wanting something because they really like it.

2. Getting your child familiar with money

Some parents worry about exposing their children to money too early because they want to protect them from adult pressures.

But helping your child to understand and respect money from an early age will help them manage it better when adult.

Start by letting your child see and handle notes, coins and cards, so they become familiar with money as a part of everyday life.

Activity - Paying with cash

  • Have a week where you use cash for all your spending.* During the week involve your child when you pay for things.
  • During the week involve your child when you pay for things.
  • Let them hand over the cash and help older children to count it out first or check the change.

Activity - Counting your pennies

  • Put lots of 1p coins and one each of a 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p and £1 coin on a flat surface.
  • Build a pile of 1p coins next to each of the higher value coins, to show the difference in their value.
  • Take down the piles and ask your child to recreate them.

3. Learning what money is used for

As your child becomes more familiar with money they’ll start to understand how it’s used day to day.

This includes the many different ways people can pay for things.

The most important message to convey to your child about spending is “when it’s gone, it’s gone”.

Activity - Doing things cost money to

  • List the things you’ll be doing with your child over the next few days, including public transport and snacks.
  • Put cash covering their total cost in a purse or wallet, then ask your child to pay for each thing at the till using this purse.
  • If they ask for something extra, explain this might not leave enough in the purse for other things they want to do.

Activity - No such thing as a free lunch

  • Take your child shopping for one day’s school lunch-box, giving them a spending limit.
  • Give them a few choices for each of their usual items, and then help them work how much different combinations will cost.
  • Make sure that the lunch your child takes to school only includes what they could chose within their spending limit.

4. Letting your children have a go

Now your child understands what money is and how to use it, it’s time for them have a go.

Let them have pocket money and the experience of choosing how to use it - then doing what they’ve decided.

The most important idea to get across to older children is “save, spend, save again”.

Activity - Save for something bigger

  • Talk to your child about something they really want but that their pocket money won’t stretch to.
  • Help them work out how long it would take to buy it if they saved all, half or a quarter of their pocket money each week.
  • Help your child decide their best savings option, then make a progress chart to keep them motivated.

Activity - What does £1 buy?

  • Give your child £1 to spend on whatever they choose in the supermarket. Repeat this when you’re shopping together in the high street or a shopping centre.
  • Ask your child whether it was hard to find something to buy for £1. Was there anything they were hoping to buy, but couldn’t afford when they saw the price?
  • Ask if it was easier to find something in the supermarket than in the high street. And how long did their purchase last?

Activity - Expanding pocket money

  • Gradually expand older children’s pocket money so they learn to budget for their toiletries, clothing, sports and social activities, etc.
  • Work out what you spend on your child in one of these areas in a year, divide by 12 and give this to them as a monthly allowance.
  • When they’re confident in one area, add another and so on until they’re managing all their personal spending.

5. Your child and virtual money

Use of mobile phones and other digital technology is a fact of everyday life for most of us.

This means your child will be exposed to virtual money almost from birth.

If virtual money is already part of your family life, don’t forget to show your growing child this bit as well.

Activity - Watching the balance fall

  • Get the balance on your current account from a cash machine or online banking and show it to your child.
  • Use your card to shop for food, then get another balance and show your child how it’s less than before.
  • Do the activity again before and after withdrawing cash, or shopping online.

Activity - Digital world disconnect

  • Use a mobile phone to introduce your child to the idea of ‘when it’s gone, it’s gone’.
  • For a younger child, set a monthly top-up limit on a basic, pay-as-you-go phone.
  • For an older child, use a contract phone that blocks any activity not included in the monthly contract fee.

Activity - Using game power

  • Many digital games are based on the player collecting tokens to allow them to progress through levels or to get additional features.
  • Make up a game in which your child does household jobs for ‘tokens’ they can exchange for rewards like extra pocket money or a favourite treat.
  • With teenagers this rewards system can lead to the idea of taking a part-time job to increase their spending power.

6. Making money go further

By now you’ve seen how children of all ages benefit from being involved in money.

Get teenage children to plan a budget for something they want to do. By looking at all the costs in advance, they’ll find they can make their money go a lot further.

Once children learn basic budgeting through direct experience, it’s there for life.

As your child becomes more independent, it’s good for them to hear other peoples experiences.

Activity - Exploring the full cost

  • Set a budget for a family day out – this can be a big treat or just spending a day together near home.
  • List all the things the family want to do and how much each will cost, plus any freebies.
  • Remember to include all food and drink and transport costs (bus, train, car fuel and parking).

Activity - Plan to succeed

  • If your teenager’s monthly social life allowance disappears too soon, discuss breaking it down into four weekly amounts and ways of making these last a week.
  • If they buy lots of T-shirts but moan that they can’t afford shoes, help them come up with a plan for saving for footwear over a number of months.
  • If their allowance covers most personal spending, remind them to still put money aside for essentials like underwear and occasional costs like subscriptions.

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