Summertime! It's a wonderful time of year to slow down and relax after a busy school year of homework, events, and bustling to be on time. Summer is also a chance for children to practice life skills including money management.
Activities and conversations that involve our daily lives can help make money real to children. While you're shopping at the grocery store, paying the monthly bills, or planning a family trip be creative on ways to involve your children in age-appropriate ways.
Another approach is to look for books and games that spark financial conversations. Have you considered apps to entertain and educate your children? While there are many good apps, I've chosen a few to give you an idea of the different kinds available. And, I have chosen apps that are free. University of Illinois Extension does not endorse any specific products.
I have looked for game apps that are 1) free, 2) age-appropriate, 3) teach financial concepts, and 4) are fun!
3-5 year olds need to learn how to identify coins and their value. Amazing Coin Lite has four games about counting, matching and using coins to make purchases. Along with cute graphics and well-designed activities, the free version provides enough options to keep children involved for quite a while. I like that this simple game can be used by children who don't read yet; the game is narrated in a pleasant voice.
When children are 6-10 years old it's time to talk about making spending choices, as well as choices between saving money versus spending money. Green$treets: Unleash the Loot! is a wonderful example of a fun, engaging activity that reinforces these concepts. Children are challenged to save an endangered animal by earning money weeding or cleaning up a bedroom. Once money is earned, then children have decisions to make: how much money to charity versus savings versus immediate spending. It's not any easier to make these decisions in the game than in real life – so many temptations! I love the mischievous character "Schmootz" and that you have to shake your iPad to water your garden.
11-13 year olds are ready to learn about credit cards and the problems of buying on credit what you can't afford to pay for with cash. Celebrity Calamity drives home this point! Plus, there's more to this game than the lessons about credit and interest. The app also touches on financial wellness and happiness as well as career advancement. In addition, the game activities (balancing pleasing the celebrity boss versus keeping debt down) provides plenty of opportunities to expand on these topics in conversations with your teens.I enjoyed playing these game apps. Do you have a favorite children's app that teaches about money? If so, I'd love to hear about it. This month, University of Illinois Extension's Plan Well, Retire Well Facebook page is featuring Kids and Money. Check out our Facebook page for more ideas about engaging children with money-related activities.