Both of my kids are super into money right now.
I have a feeling that’s not going to change as they get older.
But I figure now is a great time to talk with them about handling money, show them how budgeting works, and demonstrate the issues of limited resources (I have $20 but everything at the farmer’s market looks delicious!).
So one of our favorite bedtime books these days is If You Made a Million. I’m absolutely thrilled they love it as much as I did when I was a kid. It is seriously one of the best children’s books out there about money.
It teaches about value, equivalency, different amounts of work required to earn different amounts of money (feed the fish earns 1 cent, but building a bridge earns $50,000 in the book).
But it goes even deeper than that, too. Kids learn about savings accounts and earning interest, and even more importantly, the power of compounding interest. The book also describes how mortgages work, and the fact that interest works in reverse in this case.
And at the end, it reminds kids that if they have expensive goals, they’ll need a really well-paying job OR they’ll need to make less expensive plans. (Simple living is really underrated, and I give props to David Schwartz, the author, for even planting the seed of this idea.)
One of the most basic lessons about money we can teach our kids is that money is real. And unlike when we were kids, it actually takes some effort to teach this! Kids see us pulling out debit cards every day, and swiping to make a purchase.
They see loads of groceries come home, new outfits for them to wear, toys to play with, gas filling up the car. But they almost never see CASH.
But money isn’t an abstract concept. It has physical roots, and making it tangible is the best way to lay a foundation for our children’s future responsible money-management.
So at this very beginning stage of learning about money, I’m giving my kids some. I’m letting them handle it. We count it together. If I give them a few dollars or they receive a gift of some money in a birthday card, I’ll take them shopping and explain prices of different things to them, what they can afford, and what they would need to save up for.
Here’s a money-handling project we’ve been doing. It’s one of the simplest things ever, but it really gives kids the chance to handle money and explore it.
“If You Made a Million” Activity – Penny Cleaning Montessori Work
You will need:
- a bowl of white vinegar or lemon juice
- a couple of tablespoons of salt
- a spoon
- white cloths for scrubbing and drying
- optional – a toothbrush for more detailed cleaning
Penny-Cleaning Work (Montessori Style)
- Have your child spoon the salt into the vinegar or lemon juice, and stir to dissolve.
- Show your child how to gently drop a penny into the mixture and count slowly to 10 or 15 together.
- Remove the penny with the spoon, and scrub both sides with a white cloth, or use a toothbrush for more detailed cleaning.
- Dry the penny off and admire how clean it is.
- Hand the reins over to your child, and let her do the activity on her own.
If your kids are older, you might want to bring in the science bits a bit more, discussing how the acid in vinegar reacts with the salt to remove the copper oxide that makes pennies look dull and dirty.
Or you could bring in an art element, and have your kids observe the clean pennies with a magnifying glass, then draw a picture of a penny as accurately as they can.
If you haven’t read it yet, definitely grab If You Made a Million. This book will NEVER get old. David Schwartz lays it all out for kids in a very approachable way, while respecting that kids are capable of understanding a lot more than other authors would credit them with. And nothing can beat Steven Kellogg’s magical illustrations. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent poring over those pictures as a child.
I hope you give this activity a try with your kids!