Luckily, there are all sorts of books, toys, and games that tackle finances — in a fun, entertaining way. Children as young as 2 can learn about saving, spending, and the value of a dollar, and older kids can play games where they role-play decisions, with the challenges getting increasingly complicated (just like in the real world).
Here are nine gift ideas for kids, tweens, and teens.
My 3-year-old and 5-year-old go crazy for their cash register. They love to set up a store at the kitchen table and sell their toys back and forth, trading with their play money. They’re not only learning how to be entrepreneurial, they’re also practicing negotiation skills and basic math concepts. The sounds and buttons make the experience realistic and fun.
My favorite is from Learning Resources; there are several versions, $19-$55.
One Cent, Two Cent, Old Cent, New Cent
“Money doesn’t grow on trees,” says The Cat In The Hat — and we say, “Preach!” This book gives young kids a brief history of money and banking to the tune of One Fish, Two Fish.
My 3-year-old loves to collect and count coins. She’s learning how much each one is worth. Plus, my 5-year-old has figured out a handful of ways to make a dollar. A piggy bank gives them a safe place to hold their coins and teaches them that money is something to save and protect (because learning to spend it is much easier).
Pearhead Piggy Bank, $15
The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble With Money
Brother and Sister learn to work for their money and earn enough to buy a very special toy. The book also addresses the difficult choices we make about having to spend when you’re trying to save.
This classic enterprising game never gets old, and the lessons it teaches remain valuable in any economy. Buying, selling, getting paid, and paying taxes are all part of Monopoly and life. Choose the original, or from one of the dozen new versions on the market, including Junior (for 5+), Millionaire, Hotels, and the Electronic Banking Game.
Here’s another board game about money, but this one is ideal for practicing basic family finance. Payday focuses on budgeting and paying the bills that come on a monthly basis. The stroke-of-luck windfall opportunities make the game more fun for kids, but less realistic.
Money Savvy Kids Club Books
Personal finance experts Susan Beacham and Lynnette Khalfani-Cox write these money-conscious books for for 7- to 12-year-olds to impart different lessons in fiscal responsibility — how to save, spend, donate and invest. Bonus: The stories aren’t just educational; they’re funny, too.
Money Savvy Kids Club books, $13 each
Family Money Talks
This note card–size book serves as a conversation-starter game for teens and their parents. The goal is to decode commercial messages that are influencing teens and to demystify the complicated emotions around money. Some examples include: What do you buy that you can’t have just one of? When have you bought something because someone else thought you should? Would you pick up a quarter you spotted on the sidewalk — why or why not?
Family Money Talks, $10
Money Habitudes for Teens
This deck of cards created by motivational speaker Syble Solomon is intended as a game with complicated rules and reactions. However, the cards can also be used as conversation starters for a quick round or for the younger teen set. One example is this thought-provoking true/false statement: “I am frequently amazed at how much money some of the people my age spend on themselves.”
Money Habitudes for Teens, $15