4 Activities to Help Normalise Talking About Money with your Child

Many adults feel uncomfortable talking about money, not only with children but also with partners, friends, and family.  If you are not talking to your child about money, they will learn from another source, be that advertisers, social media influencers or friends with a limited education.

Talking about money openly and often will not only help shake off the awkwardness and teach children the financial confidence, skills, and habits they need, but is also an opportunity to share family values, goals, and beliefs.

These activities can help make talking about money feel more natural and fun.

Play the Needs and Wants Game

First, explain NEEDS as things we cannot live without, like water, food, shelter, clothes, and shoes.  Explain WANTS as things we can live without but are fun to have, like sugary drinks, McDonalds, branded shoes, toys, the latest phone, and ice-cream.

How to play

  • Invite everyone (including the adults) to go to their rooms and get an item they think is a want.  Initiate a conversation by asking why they think it’s a want.
  • Then as a group walk around the house pointing to needs.  Use this opportunity to find items that may be thought of as needs but are wants.  Talk about how different people can have different needs and wants, and sometimes one person’s need can be another person’s want and visa versa.
  • Finally chat about something you really want and how you are planning to save up enough money so you can buy it.  Ask everyone about something they want and talk about how they could get the money to buy it.  This is an opportunity to talk about different ways to earn money, saving up to buy wants and setting and tracking saving goals.

The game can lead into conversations about the family budget and how the family spends their money on needs first and wants second.  This will help them understand why you don’t buy them everything they want when you go shopping.

Other conversations could start with questions like:

  • How much do you think we spend on electricity?
  • Is electricity a need or a want?  Why?
  • What do you think would happen if we didn’t pay our electricity bill?
  • Do you know how much our Wi-Fi costs?
  • Where do you think our family’s money comes from?
  • Can you guess how much money we spent on snacks last month?
  • How many hours do we have to work to be able to pay for our next holiday?

Use Common Events like Birthday celebrations, Gift Buying, buying a New Car or Planning a Holiday to talk about Budgeting and Saving.

The conversations won’t only be about dollars and cents, but also about planning, problem solving, allocation, needs and wants and negotiating.

Together, create a budget for the event, involving them in all aspects of allocating monetary values to categories, like food, decorations, and venue.

As they get older give them more responsibility for specific items in the budget, like drinks, entertainment, or food.  Show them how to comparative shop and find ways to save money.  To make it more interesting for them, tell them any money not spent is for them.

Ask questions like:

  • Do you think it will cost more or less money to have the party at home or at a venue?
  • Will it be cheaper to buy pizzas or make them at home?
  • Would you rather have more decorations and less friends at your party or the other way around?
  • I wonder if there are any special deals, we can find on sites like Grab One?
  • Help them work out the cost per head for different options.

Play Challenge the Ad 

Helping children become more aware and mindful of how advertising works will help them make more informed unemotional financial choices in the future.

How to Play

Gather everyone, either in front of the TV, the home computer, or go for a trip to the mall. While you watch or notice adverts, ask questions like:

  • Do you think an ad has ever made you want to buy something?
  • What do you think this ad is trying to sell?  Do we need it?  Do we want it?
  • Do you think the people in the ad use the product they are advertising?
  • Do you think the people in the ad are being paid to say good things about the product they are selling, or do they genuinely love the product?
  • I wonder if the item they are selling is good quality.

A fun way to end the session is to design your own adverts.  Come up with a product to sell and have a simple brief, including things like:

  • Who are we trying to sell this to (target audience)?
  • Are our target audience mostly on social media or in the malls?
  • How old are they?
  • What other things do they love doing that we could use to make them want to buy our product?
  • What music do they love?
  • What words can we use to make them feel they just have to have it?
  • Then try and sell to each other, either individually or in groups.

Car Chats

As you are driving children around, use your surroundings to have casual fun chats about money.

Ask questions like:

  • Do you think the people who live in that house own it or rent it?
  • Do you want to own a house one day?
  • What kind of house do you want to own?
  • How much do you think that house (point to houses as you drive past) costs?
  • Is everyone who lives in a big house wealthy?
  • How much do you think those police get paid?
  • What are you grateful for today?
  • How much money do you want to earn one day?
  • How much do you think that car costs?
  • Do you think it cost more or less than our car?
  • Is our car an asset or a liability? (Explain assets as things we own that bring money into our lives.  Explain liabilities as things we own that don’t bring money into our lives)
  • Who do you think pays to collect the rubbish from the park?
  • How does money get into the auto bank?
  • How does a bank make its money?
  • Has the price of petrol gone up or down?
  • I wonder where that big delivery truck is going and what it’s carrying?
  • What are they advertising on that billboard?
  • How much do you think they paid for that ad?
  • Would that ad make you want to buy that?
  • If you could sell something, what would it be and how much would it cost to make?

Keep conversations short, to the point and most importantly have fun. 

The more opportunities children get to talk openly and honestly about money, the better they will get at managing money and making educated and informed financial choices.