By BERN MORLEY
The summer school holidays are LONG. No, I’m sorry, I need to reiterate, they are Looooong. I’m not entirely sure “who” came up with the brilliant idea to put kids on a massive hiatus over what is essentially the HOTTEST period of time in Australia, but I’d sure like to meet them. And then perhaps have some quiet word with them.
See, it’s different since when I was a kid. When I was little, my school holidays consisted of me trundling out the front door at my convenience in the morning, some bike riding, some swimming, probably in a friend’s pool or a local creek, some more bike riding, some eating whatever was put in front of me at lunch time and then repeating the previous riding/swimming scenario until it was time to have a bath and/or go to bed. If we were lucky we’d see a movie. One movie. In eight weeks. None of this let’s ‘see every single movie that is released during the school holidays’ business. None of this let’s meet at the local kids mega playdome and take out a second mortgage on the house just to walk through the doors.
Now, well now, kids want entertainment and get this, they want to go do STUFF! All. The. Time. Stuff that costs money. What they don’t understand is that every time I agree to take them to a simple movie, I am agreeing to forego their university education if we buy drinks and popcorn.
So I thought about it. If I was going to have to entertain and invigorate these children for weeks on end, they may as well be learning the importance of the money at the same time. But to teach would bore. They had just come in from a whole year of being force fed times tables by Mrs Edgeworth. No, they needed it to be fun. And most importantly, not realise they were even learning.
Here are a few games to encourage your children to learn about the value of the dollar all whilst they still think they’re having a great time:
Teach your children about virtual transactions:
While your child watches from the back seat, you swipe your credit card, push a few buttons, put some petrol into your car and, just like magic, the car runs again. Children cannot be blamed for thinking that cards are magical and infinite. Break through this by letting your child help you pay for goods at the counter. Let them swipe the card. But also, make them understand and remind them what you’re paying for.
1. Visit the bank/ teach them about financial institutions and their role:
Turn visiting the bank into a game. Let your children interact with the tellers themselves, helping them fill in the forms, even if it’s only the date. Withdrawing cash the old fashioned way. Depositing it. Enquiring about the balance. Interacting and understanding that THIS is the place that houses the cash.
2. Shop at a farmers’ market/learn more about the value of work and money:
At the local supermarket, children don’t see any sign of the farmer. Hey, they are lucky to find someone that knows what a ripe avocado feels like. Taking them to a farmers’ market instead, is a great way to help them understand the connection between work and money. Let your child be as involved as possible. As they help you choose a bunch of carrots and hand the cash to the farmer, they’ll get to see the market economy in action.
Explain that the farmer grew the blueberries himself, so he gets to decide how much they cost and that then the customers decide if they want to pay that price for those delicious blueberries. You can also explain that with the money the farmer earns, he can buy supplies to grow more berries. Also, give the children a budget and see if they can maximise the amount of produce they can purchase within that budget. As they are in a market environment they can also begin to understand the concept of negotiation as opposed to set prices. Watch their little minds work overtime!
3. Involve yourself in playing shop with the kids:
Join in their games or initiate a game of ‘shopping’ so you can teach them whilst playing with your children. Use either
real money or even monopoly money so you can incorporate the concept of change, and encourage them to figure out how much change they should be giving or receiving. For older children you can even start to incorporate discounts.
4. Go to a Garage or Car Boot Sale to learn the value of shopping around for a bargain:
Garage and Car Boot Sales are usually a goldmine of stuff for children. Younger children will love picking out a book or toy and older kids will quickly discover that their pocket money stretches much further here than it does at the shopping centre. Afterward, you can go discuss with them the bargain they got and the money that they saved.
5. Download apps that have a financial theme/making financial learning enjoyable:
Apps such as Kids Money, Savings Spree and Chore Bank are a fantastic start to learning on line.
6. Play a comparison game:
Show your children pictures of two similar items, one being more premium than the other. Ask them to choose which one they would like. Then reveal how much they are worth. If they choose the more premium one, explain that they could get the other item plus an additional item for the same price. However, also explain the benefits of purchasing a high quality item. This will teach the children to consider what they purchase with the pocket money.
7. Go Fishing, make the play world more real for them:
Cut out fish from construction paper. Attach price tags to each fish tail with a paper clip. Find or make a small size fishing pole with a magnetic end for a hook. Give each child a bag full of coins and instruct them to go fishing in the pond. For our pond, we used a large bucket or bin to keep the fish. After catching a fish, have your child pay the correct coin for their catch of the day. To make this game a little more advanced, increase the price tag of the fish to see if your child can make the correct change.
8. Teach them about needs versus wants:
Play a game where you assign dollar values to their existing toys. Put a higher amount for their favourite ones and give them a set amount of money with which they can ‘purchase’ their toys back from you. This will teach them to differentiate between the toys they ‘need’ i.e. their favourites and the ones they aren’t particularly attached to. It also allows you to show the difference between want vs need.
9. Count the coins/teach them about the value of money:
For your younger children, give them a jar of coins and tell them to sort them into different piles i.e. 50 c, 20 c. Ask them to tell you the value of each pile and then the overall value of the entire jar. All I ask is that this doesn’t end up in a situation where you have to have a five cent piece removed from an orifice by a medical professional.
Above all, try to have some back to basics FUN with your kids these holidays whilst incorporating some subtle learning. They’ll never know it, but they’ll thank you for it in the long run.
As Australia’s leading financial institution, the Commonwealth Bank is committed to helping young Australians develop strong money management skills and form sensible saving habits that can last a lifetime. Along with a range of savings accounts, including one designed especially for under-18s, and their well-established School Banking program, they offer a diverse range of initiatives designed to promote financial literacy. For more information visit their site.
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What are your tips for entertaining the kids these school holidays?