Physical money, that is, notes and coins, is being used much less often. In fact, it’s not uncommon for some shops and venues to have gone completely cashless. In this new world of cashless payments, young children may struggle to understand the concept of money.
However, many sources including the Post Office, have reported a rise in the number of households that have gone back to using physical cash. Many of these households are trying to keep their spending on track during the cost of living crisis. This demonstrates how important it is to teach our children to understand money. Not just the digital cash we have all become accustomed to, but physical cash.
Are you a parent or guardian looking for summer holiday activities to keep the little ones busy? Look no further – we’ve created the Smart Money People Kids Cash Challenge. In short, ten fun ways that you can help develop your child’s understanding of money. Each idea teaches the child a different lesson.
We’ve created this for pre-schoolers and Key Stage 1 (ages 3 to 7). You can scale many of the concepts up or down depending on your child’s awareness and confidence with money.
1. Set up a tuck shop at home to learn how to buy goods
Instead of offering children snacks when they are hungry, set up a mini tuck shop where they need to buy their own. You’ll need to provide some money to allow them to make purchases. You can also set prices at an appropriate level, depending on your child’s understanding. Try starting with simple coin values (1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, etc.). Once they’ve mastered this, move on to larger amounts that require multiple coins or more complex amounts that require change.
What you offer in the tuck shop is up to you – healthy or otherwise.
2. Count your household’s spare change to match similar coin values
Many households have a pot for spare change which can mount up over the months and years. Ask your child to sort this out for you by matching shapes, sizes, and colours. Even if they don’t fully understand the concept of money, this is a great way to introduce them to different coins. Consider it a game of snap with coins instead of cards.
3. Create a coin caterpillar to see the different coin types
Creative types will love this challenge. Put five to ten coins in an uneven row. Then place some paper over the top, and use a crayon to rub over the coins. This will create a crazy coin caterpillar. When you’ve finished rubbing over the coins, draw some legs under the coins and add some antennae. Older children might be able to add up the value of each of their caterpillars.
4. Buy something in a shop to grasp the concept of change
Little children are rarely tall enough to see what goes on when their parents are paying for items in a shop. Rather than use a card or contactless device, make sure you’ve got some cash and let them hand over the money. It gives you the perfect opportunity to discuss the concept of change.
5. Start good savings habits early with summer holiday pocket money
Giving children pocket money helps them to have a better understanding of how to budget for items. If you don’t want to commit to year-round pocket money, offer your child a set amount per week over the summer holidays. This allows them to decide whether they save up for something bigger or use it for smaller purchases. Get them to work out the total amount they might have at the end of the holidays as a way to encourage saving. You could add a bonus amount at the end if they manage to save it all.
6. Go supermarket shopping to understand how budgeting works
Supermarket shopping can be stressful with young children. This challenge turns it into something fun. Ditch the online shop and go to a real supermarket. Create a way for your child to be involved in the shop. This could include helping you write a shopping list, or selecting items in-store by looking at the different prices.
Another great task is to shop for a specific recipe, such as a cake or tray bake. The child can calculate the cost of making the cake and then sell slices to family members in their tuck shop.
7. Buy a small wallet or purse and discuss how to look after money
Many children will understand that their parents get out a wallet or purse when they need to pay for things. But children of more digitally-savvy parents may only see them using a phone, watch, or wearable to pay for items. Discuss the importance of looking after money and give a small purse or wallet to your child. This helps them start to take responsibility for small amounts.
8. Teach the value of different coins with slot machines
There’s no denying that children learn faster in an environment they enjoy. Encourage your child to work out which coins they need for each slot machine in an arcade. When the coins are gone, put a note into a change machine. This will teach your child that the same value comes in various forms.
Set a limit on how much your child can spend before you let them keep it safe in their new wallet or purse.
9. Open a bank account for your child to further the safety message
It’s possible to open a children’s current account with as little as £1. So use the time this summer to make sure your child has a bank account. They may like to pay in their summer holiday pocket money (see point five) to save for something at a later date. Often family members pay directly into an account for children’s birthdays or Christmas. As a result, children don’t have the chance to understand how to pay money in. It also gives you the chance to talk to your child about how a bank or building society protects their money and pays them interest.
10. Pay your child for some summer holiday chores to help them value their money
Spending money is the easy part. Knowing where it comes from is a much harder concept for children to grasp. Consider paying your child for some age-appropriate chores. Laying the table, loading the dishwasher, or tidying up after a play session may all warrant a small payment.
Once your child has mastered the concept of cash, you can introduce online money management tools. The winner of the Best Children’s Financial Provider in this year’s British Bank Awards was HyperJar. They have a card that lets kids manage their money in digital ‘jars’. This helps them to budget, without even noticing they’re doing it.
We’d love to see you putting some of these activities into action. Share your Kids Cash Challenge photos on social media and use the hashtag #KidsCashChallenge.