First Person: Teaching Little Kids About Money

First Person: Teaching Little Kids About Money
Eileen St. Pierre, The Everyday Financial Planner

piggy bankI’ve always been the type of person to tackle my weaknesses head-on. It’s what makes life challenging for me. But this summer I truly tested myself when asked to teach some financial summer camps for youth. Up until this time, I have always taught adults. The toughest age group for me – little kids ages 5 to 7. Here’s why:

They will just walk away if they are not interested.

As we grow up, we learn to abide by certain social norms. We listen to others in conversation even if we are not interested in what they are saying. But little kids haven’t learned this yet. If they don’t want to play anymore, they will just walk away. You can’t take it personally. The same kids who walked away from my activity asked me at the end of the week to hula-hoop with them. I wish I could have walked away from that. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Luckily no pictures made it onto Facebook.

Their attention spans are short.

Don’t plan a 30 minute activity. Be happy with 10 to 15 minutes. Keep the activity focused on one subject area. Here is what worked well for me:

  • Counting and separating money – the boys especially enjoyed doing this.
  • Rubbing coins with crayons – the girls tend to have a softer touch and choose lighter colors that show up better.
  • Using pictures, ask children to distinguish between wants and needs.

When the teachers announced that Sharknado was going to be played in the gym area, suddenly the room emptied. I can’t compete with Sharknado.

Their skill levels can really vary.

I did not realize the difference in understanding between a six and seven year old. Even children a few months apart may have been exposed to different levels of math. The key for me was working with the same group of children for a week – ideally it should have been for longer. So before you start teaching little kids about money you should spend some time with them to get a sense of their math and counting skills. It is definitely not one size fits all.

They can teach us a thing or two.

Children look at life from a different perspective. I was put in my place during a Wants vs. Needs activity. All but one child said that a football was a want. But 5 ½ year old Carson said a football was a need. I asked him why he felt that way. He responded rather matter-of-factly “Because you need to exercise every day.”

Yes, Carson, I need to get a football.