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Teaching kids about money

Posted by on August 5, 2011 – 10:53 am

Trying to make dollars make sense to my kids is proving to be a challenge.

Money is something they always want (hey, they’re kids!) and so we’re teaching them that they’re going to have to earn it.

But typically, they want to spend it just as fast.

Don’t get me wrong. They know what money does (and how we need it to buy groceries and pay for the house, and buy gas for the car, and, of course, toys), but they haven’t quite grasped how to manage it.

So at our house, comments like, “I want a new Beyblade,” are often met with, “Do you have the money?”

My daughter sometimes responds, “Can’t you just go to the bank and get some?”

Last month I was invited to visit the Arizona Science Center and check out the new J.P. Morgan Chase-sponsored exhibit about money. So I gathered the big kids and their baby sister and drove to Phoenix.

“The idea behind this exhibit is to really instill some basic fiscal literacy knowledge with our visitors,” said Arizona Science Center’s Kristen Priscella. “By creating this hands-on experience, using some of the Chase products like their ATM, we’re hoping to spark some interest in our younger visitors and their parents in math.”

We made the Chase exhibit our first stop (it’s on the first floor just past the exhibit on construction). Of course, my kids gravitated to the mock ATM. There, the kids could make up their own code and decide how much money to “withdraw.”

(They were a bit upset the money wasn’t real, which made me laugh.)

While my daughter played with that, my son and I turned our attention to the money puzzle pieces. There, he had to figure out how he wanted to spend $30. The puzzle pieces were sized depending on how much each item cost (a movie ticket, snacks, books, savings, toy, etc.). The smaller the cost, the smaller the piece. We then put the vertical puzzle together.

A ticket to the swimming pool was a must (funny, since we’ve been doing that all summer), and so were books. He wasn’t so excited about “buying” clothes), but of course he wanted the toy. Many of his “purchases” were lower cost, so he was able to do a lot with $30.

His sister, however, turned her attention to the clothes (a bigger ticket item) and savings (which surprised me!). It took a bit more effort to make all her pieces fit without going over the height of the puzzle.

The exhibit is geared for children first through eighth grade, said Mary Martuscelli, president of J.P. Morgan Chase Arizona. It’s a good introduction to what can be found in a bank, budgeting and how money works, she said.

“With so many things that have happened in the world unfortunately — foreclosures, concerns about money, investments — we talked with (Arizona Science Center CEO Chevy Humphrey) about an exhibit. The younger we teach them, the better they are,” Martuscelli said. “She said, ‘Why don’t we teach them about the world of banking?’ ”

Not only can children get a hands-on experience at the exhibit, but there’s a handout to take home that explains even more about money.

To continue the learning, Martuscelli also suggested opening a bank account for the children where they can add money from birthdays or funds they earn for doing extra chores around the house (my kids don’t have an allowance). By having them put money in an account, they can watch it grow, she said.

“I think it’s important for kids to get the experience, go into a branch, see how things work,” she said. “We have individuals who come into our branch every day with youngsters. We love talking to them about a savings account, checking account and watching money grow.”

I haven’t taken that step yet, but I may. My kids always know how much they have in their piggy banks (very little now), and when they don’t, they ask for chores to do.

The best part was when my son made the connection between work and a paycheck — something we talk about a lot.

“I’ve got to get a job like you and dad.”

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