How to teach your kids about money and the games that will help
Poverty is generational and so is wealth! Research by the Equality of Opportunity of Income Project shows that how much the parents make directly influences how much kids will make later in life.
What? Why should it matter?
Because rich people teach their kids about money. Schools don’t do it and as someone that grew up in a lower-income, single-parent family I can tell you that lessons learned by example aren’t always the best.
My wife, who also grew up on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’, and I are trying to break that chain with our kids. We do pretty well but had to learn about money on our own. Instead of making our kids go through the same challenge, we’re looking for games to help us teach them earlier.
Our daughter just turned four and our son is about to turn eight years old. The age gap isn’t so bad that we can’t use some of the same games and activities for both but it can be a challenge sometimes.
How to Teach Kids about Money
We’ve tried lots of games, books and activities to start teaching our kids money…some of them have worked while others have definitely not. We’ve settled on a few games we play regularly and have seen common ideas and features.
The best games and learning activities have something for all ages. This is harder to do when your kids are separated by more than five years but there are still a few great options. Sometimes it just takes a little creative imagination to find things your younger ones can learn while still challenging older kids. The best games we’ve found include simple counting and coloring while also teaching the more advanced money concepts like budgeting and smart spending.
We’ve found plenty of money games that were totally unrealistic. They may still teach counting and some other concepts but it always helps when your kids can learn real-world ideas at the same time. We love the classic Monopoly but it makes it a little too easy to just ‘buy a hotel’ (more on this later).
So the best money games for kids deal in smaller values, dollars and coins kids can earn with basic tasks they already do on a daily basis.
Finally, the best games to teach kids HAVE GOT TO BE FUN! I know, learning can’t always be fun but it sure helps to keep the kids focused and motivated to play. The best activities are going to be those with an element of excitement and that can be completed in less than half an hour.
Board Games to Teach Kids about Money
Below are the five games and books we’ve used to teach our kids about money. We went through a few others but I wouldn’t want to recommend them. We really like the ones below and, more importantly, our kids love them!
Our 4-year old’s favorite has been the Money Bags Value game by Learning Resources.
The game looks simple but there are so many ways to use it. Kids learn how to earn money be completing different tasks on each square. Then they learn counting when they earn the money and budgeting by asking other players to do a task.
We’ve found two ways to play. First, the kids can complete the tasks as intended like setting the table. Alternatively, the kids can complete the tasks by talking through them which helps with their organizational skills.
- Kids collect, count and exchange money
- Develop organizational and planning skills
- Counting, budgeting and saving skills
It’s tough beating the classics and they don’t get more classic than Monopoly!
This is our son’s favorite. He got a mini-version for Christmas and loved it so much that we bought the full-size board game. It’s great seeing him enjoy it so much because it was one of my favorites as well.
We’re hoping to teach our little real estate investor but there are a few parts of the game that are unrealistic. The amounts used are in such high value that I have to wonder if it’s not teaching kids that it’s ‘easy’ to make thousands of dollars fast. Still though, it’s a lot of fun and doesn’t feel like learning so the kids love it!
For the Dave Ramsey fans, now Dave will help teach your kids money with Financial Peace Jr.
I don’t agree with all of Dave Ramsey’s advice, especially on investing, but he’s done amazing things for peoples’ financial freedom. He knows how to explain and teach money so that anyone can understand and now he’s taking that skill to help teach kids money.
It’s packed with activities, a chore chart and all kinds of things that will help teach your kids budgeting, saving and earning money.
- Lessons on working, giving and saving
- The importance of smart spending
- Activities for kids from 3-12 years old
Books to Teach Kids about Money
While the board games have been our kids’ favorite ways to learn about money, we’ve gotten so much value in some books and activity sets. It’s so much easier to keep your kids focused and motivated if you can change up the activities and that’s a little hard to do with a board game. Instead, look for a few books and activities you can print out or page through.
The best value in games for teaching our kids money has been the Money Activity book by Learning Resources.
We really like this one because it starts with some simpler concepts and activities our four-year old can understand. She loves to color in the pages and it’s a great way to start her counting and basic math skills. For our son, there is enough higher-level counting and activities to supplement some of the other games we’re using.
- Teaching kids money management with cutouts of money and activities to budget what they earn
- Math skills from basic counting to subtraction needed when dealing with money
- 64-page workbook with activities, printouts and puzzles
It’s never to early to put your kids on the path to making money and this book, Kid Start-Up, by Mark Cuban will do just that!
Technically the book is for the 9-12 age group but our son was able to follow the ideas and we’re experimenting with his own Etsy shop. The book is really easy to understand and lays everything out in a way that keeps your child’s attention.
- Explore kid-friendly business ideas
- Learn how businesses help solve peoples’ problems
- Build excitement and motivation for success!
What are your favorite games to teaching kids about money? We’ve been using traditional board games and books but I’d love to do more teaching activities with the kids. Let me know in the comments if you’ve found a great game or way to teach kids money skills.
About the Author
Joseph Hogue is a financial expert and investment analyst. After serving in the Marine Corps, he started his career investing in real estate before becoming an investment analyst for some of the largest private investors. He's appeared on Bloomberg and on CNBC as an investment expert and has published ten books in personal finance. Now he helps investors reach their financial goals and invest in the stock market with some of the same advice he used when working for the rich.