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BLOG: How do you talk to children about using and managing money?

Children's perceptions of where money comes from is interesting. When my children were younger money coming "out of the hole in the wall" was the norm. It never occurred to them that you had to put the money in to the bank first, to get money out! With bank branches closing and everything being paid for electronically, it is even more important for children to have an understanding of how money magically appears. Notes and coinage money isn’t used as frequently anymore. We now just show our phone or our debit card and tap.

Talking to children about using and managing money is an essential skill that we should start young and understanding the value of things is important, especially in our throwaway society. It's so important that children learn that virtually everything we have has to be bought and money to buy the items we want has to be earned.

When a child at nursery ripped a book, I explained that books were expensive and that I was very sad, his answer was "don't worry my mummy can get one from Amazon". I tried to explain yes that's right but you have to use money to buy it with.

Learning about money presents so many opportunities to build on aspects of personal, social and emotional development:

  • Self-control - Can I afford that toy? Do I really need it? How long do I need to save up for?
  • Patience – Children gradually start to understand that you can’t have everything you want in life instantly, you may have to wait or even change your wishes. It provides children with the knowledge that to have something they want, takes effort.
  • A sense of reward - By being given the chance to earn money, whether that through role play or other activities, this grows their understanding of how items are bought. Doing simple but impactful activities will support children as they grow up, teaching them valuable life skills.

In the preschool, one activity we used to support a childs understanding of money was role play. We used bowls of fruit and vegetables, shopping baskets and a till and each child could choose and buy their own vegetables. One of the children was the shop keeper and the customers had real coins to purchase their goods. We also had little debit card size pieces of paper which the children signed their name on the back, pretending to pay with  debit cards as well. The imaginative play was fantastic and the children enjoyed handling both types of method of payment, it was a great learning tool. The activity provided a lot of learning opportunities including numeracy, speaking and listening, mark making, and taking turns.

When we set up invitations to play, dramatic roleplay and imaginative play, we should be always thinking, what is the learning intention? Will the children be able to relate to the activity outside of the setting? At my setting, in the Toddler Room we have enjoyed using money in a cafe and a supermarket. The area is similar to a home corner and is allowing the children to use what they know in their play. There would be no point in setting up a Travel Agents or a Post Office if a toddler has never experienced this type of shop in their life. In the café we provide a menu with prices, a till with paper money or we just pretend to purchase items. I also love to create buses, cars and trains with a simple column of chairs and say "tickets please", pretending to ask for the money.

During these activities, another way to extend their learning is to sing songs. For example, "Wheels on the bus" and add in the verse "The conductor on the bus says tickets please!". When role playing with the cafe you could try "Five currant buns in a baker's shop, round and fat with a cherry on top, along comes Sarah with a penny one day, bought a currant bun and took it away" or "Hot cross buns, Hot cross buns, one a penny, two a penny hot cross buns". I have then made some props of pennies and buns and given them out whilst singing.

It is also fantastic when this extends to home learning as well. One morning I was with my husband, people watching at a coffee house that was next to a mobile trampoline fun fair. I overheard a parent say to their young child. "You have £2 pounds, would you like to spend it on the trampoline? It is your choice, is this how you would like to spend your money?" Brilliant! Not only did the child get given the opportunity to understand that the trampoline costs money but they were also given the opportunity to choose whether or not they spent their money on this activity. We want our children to understand our British Values, which include democracy and children making their own decisions. The child's voice and opinions matter. 

Don’t forget that it is important to talk to children about that fact that money does not buy everything! You can still be rich in love, enjoying life without having expensive possessions. Enjoy those free things like a walk on the beach, time with loved ones and cuddles with pets! Happiness comes from within.

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