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Hands-On Activities

Need help getting your kids to pay attention?

Our Two Cents

Making learning about money fun and rewarding is the best way to engage kids of all ages. If kids establish good habits with money early on, they will be more likely to maintain them for a lifetime.

Try these activities. They can be fun and eye-opening for everyone in the family.

Savings activities for every age

Young kids: Decorate multiple jars—one for each savings goal. Get everyone involved to track progress as the jars fill up, and turn it into a family competition.

Middle schoolers: Open a savings account with your child. Shop for an account with no fees and no minimum balance; your own bank may be willing to negotiate. Don’t forget to take your child’s Social Security number. Ask the manager for a tour of the bank and a demonstration of online banking.

Teens: For teens who work, help them set up direct deposit and automatic transfers so that a part of every paycheck automatically goes to their savings account.

All kids: As an incentive, consider matching your child’s savings—$1 for every $10 they put in. Or offer a bonus if they reach their goal. This shows your support and helps make saving more exciting.

Spending activities for younger kids

Even a young child can learn how to make good spending decisions. Here are some simple exercises to try:

  • Help your preschooler begin to understand the value of money by having them buy something small on their own, like a snack. Let them receive and keep the change, and then encourage them to put it in a piggy bank.
  • Turn a grocery-shopping trip into a bargain-hunting game. Example: Can your child find a $3 box of cereal?
  • Have your kids comparison shop to find the most expensive and least expensive juice. Talk about why one costs more and may or may not be a good value.

Help teens track spending

Help older kids learn to be aware of where their money goes by using a spending tracker like Your teen can log everything they spend, and you can review the list with them at the end of each week. Talk through the decisions they made and how they might manage their money differently next time.

If you think your child might do better with writing things down, download our spending tracker. Make copies and have your teen write down how much they spend and what they spend it on, and then review the list weekly.

Budgeting activities for older kids

Make budgeting fun by letting kids plan a trip or family night out

  • Give them a budget—$1,000 for a family vacation or $75 for a family dinner, for example.
  • Have them research and estimate costs for transportation, lodging, meals, and activities.
  • Help them learn to make tradeoffs and find creative ways to stay within budget. For example, if dinner and a movie exceed the budget, encourage them to find a free event instead.

Help teens plan a monthly budget

Show your kids where the money goes. Complete the online Monthly Budget Planner with your teen. Then print the results and share them with other members of the family. Do this for the family budget and for your teen’s personal budget as well to show that everyone is accountable.

Investing activities for older children

Ages 10 and up: Try virtual investing. Demonstrate how to research stocks online, have your kids choose several companies they like, and then “buy” 10 shares of stock for each. For each stock, have your child record the purchase price, monitor the performance, and, after a month, calculate what they have gained or lost.

Teens: Open a custodial account (or a custodial Roth IRA if your teen has earned income), and let them help select appropriate investments. Have quarterly check-ins to review how well the investments have performed.

Young adults: As your child joins the workforce, encourage them to contribute enough to their employer’s 401(k) to get the maximum company match or to open a Roth IRA as soon as they start working. This will give them a big head start on retirement savings.

Explore additional resources for families and kids

For more on teaching your family the basics of personal finance, take a look at these online resources offered by independent organizations and the federal government.1

Council for Economic Education (CEE)—This nationwide network promotes economic literacy by providing resources for students and teachers. CEE's mission is to help students develop the ability to think critically and make responsible choices as consumers, savers, investors, citizens, members of the workforce, and participants in a global economy. Financial Fitness for Life® is CEE's personal finance curriculum for students in grades K–12.

Jump$tart Coalition® for Personal Financial Literacy—This national coalition of 150 national partner organizations and 48 affiliated state coalitions is dedicated to improving the financial literacy of kindergarteners through college-age youth by providing advocacy, research, and educational standards and resources. View the National Standards in K–12 Personal Finance Education.

JA Worldwide®—This organization offers opportunities across the U.S. for adult volunteers to help educate students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs. Junior Achievement in the Classroom offers resources for teaching students in grades K–12.

MoneySKILL®—This free, interactive, reality-based online curriculum aims at teaching high school students how to make informed financial decisions. Registration required.—This website was created by the federal government to coordinate the presentation of educational materials from the many federal agencies that deal with financial issues and markets. Go to Resources for Youth, a resource for teaching middle school students about how to apply math skills to real-life personal finance.

National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE®)—This private, nonprofit, national foundation is dedicated to improving the financial well-being of all Americans through education. Learn about the curriculum and other resources NEFE offers at no cost to high schools and organizations: NEFE's High School Financial Planning Program® and more programs by NEFE for adults.

Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)—This organization helps young people from low-income communities build the skills they need to unlock their entrepreneurial creativity. Find an overview of the NFTE curriculum for middle school, high school, and post-secondary school students. NFTE also offers BizCamp, a summer day camp for kids ages 13–18 who are interested in entrepreneurship.

Take Charge Today—Created in collaboration with the University of Arizona, Take Charge Today (formerly Family Economics & Financial Education) offers a free curriculum for teaching family economics and finance to students in grades 7–12 at FEFE Curriculum.

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