I’ve started teaching my three year old about money. It started by accident - while at the store, he found a giant puzzle with colorful pictures of trucks and cars and asked if I could buy it for him.
“I don’t have enough money today, bud,” I explained. He confidently declared, “I’ll get money.”
Since that day, he’s been collecting coins in his piggy bank. There are few ways for him to earn money this early on- by helping grandmom put away the dishes, or by being an extra good listener for the babysitter. Each time, another coin gets dropped into the piggy bank. Occasionally, he’ll empty the whole thing onto his bed and feel the texture of the coins, look at the different colors and different sizes.
He doesn’t yet understand how much each coin is worth or how to add them together. But, I’ve been surprised at how saving has changed his perception of the world. The normal battle at the grocery store over, “Can we buy…?” still happens, but is much more short-lived. Though he doesn’t yet understand value or price, he understands that items he wants cost money, a finite resource and something he has to work to get.
Today we counted out his jar yet again- almost able to buy that puzzle! And I know that he’ll enjoy it even more, after waiting, saving, and buying it himself.
Here are some additional tips for teaching your kids to save:
Be a role model. Kids learn by watching and listening to their parents, so explain to them how and why you save money. Be honest and straightforward about the ups and downs of saving, and keep talking about money in general.
Set simple goals. Most toddlers think in very short time frames, so their saving goals should be for the near future and easy for them to achieve. It can be helpful to tape up a picture of the prize he or she is saving for as a constant reminder of what they are working towards.
Make learning about money fun. Learning about money will be much more interesting for little ones if you make it fun for them. Activities like creating a savings chart, or online videos designed for children are just a couple ideas.
Give rewards. Toddlers are clearly too young to have any sort of job or do any real chores, but rewarding them for small jobs like clearing their plates or putting away their toys will teach them the importance of working for your money.
Liz Moorhead is an English teacher-turned-writer and illustrator. She paints stationery, writes for a top wedding site, and blogs at Happy Sighs between walks to the park with her two boys.