Teach children how to save money with engaging activities

It’s never too soon to start teaching children how to save for a desired goal. If the learning is fun and engaging, the odds of achieving the goal increase significantly.

When is the right time to start saving money? Michigan State University Extension recommends even elementary school-aged children be taught this important concept in fun, age-appropriate ways.

Birthdays are often occasions when children receive money as gifts. Using that as the catalyst, parents can teach the benefits of saving. Start with a simple conversation to identify one to two items your child would like to use the birthday money for, staying close to what can realistically be purchased with the amount of money received.

Introduce the concept of saving money to reach a desired goal; with patience and determined effort, the goal can be attained. Help your child identify an item that costs slightly more money than what they have; that is, a goal that they can reach within a week or two by doing extra chores to make the additional money.

Children are visual and tactile learners, so once you have determined the cost of the item, together cut 2- by 5-inch strips of construction paper, one strip for each dollar of the cost. Encourage your child to decorate each strip with a dollar sign or make it look like a $1 bill. Make one strip extra special with bright colors or designs to use when the goal is reached.

Have your child count the money they received as a birthday gift; put it in a piggy bank or secure place for keeping. Invite them to make a paper chain by taping and interlocking one strip for each dollar they have put in his savings fund. Hang the paper chain in a prominent place in the house so they can see how much money has been saved for the goal. Each of the remaining strips represents how many dollars they have to earn to reach their goal.

If your child has a picture, drawing or advertisement of the desired item, hang it near the paper chain so there are images that reinforce the child’s effort to save money. Each time your child adds a dollar to the piggy bank, they can add another strip to the paper chain. Parents can support their child’s endeavor by making positive comments on the incremental growth of the savings fund. When the last brightly decorated strip gets added to the chain, the savings goal has been reached!

To reinforce the learning and acknowledge the patience your child has demonstrated, it is important parents and the children take the saved money and purchase the item soon after the goal is reached. For elementary-aged children, this ability to delay gratification is significant and deserves fanfare.

It’s never too early to start children on a path to a healthy financial future. The most effective money-related activities are fun, engaging and teach an important money concept.

MSU Extension has numerous money management resources to teach children money management skills, such as articles, workshops and 4-H Youth Development curriculum.

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