You teach your child all the big lessons – you show him how to treat others, you help him learn the alphabet, and you always show him you love him.
Even at this age, he’s ready for a lesson that will help him for the rest of his life and it’s one you might be ignoring. Toddlers can learn some basics about money that may help set them up for a successful relationship with the almighty dollar, and if you don’t teach your child about it, no one else will.
Why should she learn about money?
For many adults, money is a constant struggle. They think if they earned more, all their problems would be solved. A lot of people who earn more, though, also spend more. Teaching your child from a young age about the importance of money and the work it takes to earn it might do her a world of good.
Here are some ways to help your child become familiar with money:
Teach her simple names
She’s clearly not ready for words like low-interest loan, but teaching her the names of common coins can be a good starting point. Children like to handle money, whether it’s pretend or real. It makes them feel grown up and important. So place a quarter, dime, nickel and penny on a table and make a game out of naming them.
When you’re finished, make sure you put all those coins away because some toddlers still like to learn about things by putting them in their mouths, and you don’t want a money lesson to cost you hundreds of dollars because of a trip to the ER.
Set up shop
Make your own little store in the living room using household items like small boxes of food, vegetables or a box of crayons. Let your child go shopping for whatever she wants with imaginary dollar bills or real ones.
Set up a chore chart
Set aside a jar that belongs only to your child. Find simple things your child can do to help you around the house, whether it’s folding a load of towels, helping you sweep the floor or dusting off a table. Put a coin into the jar for every chore she helps you with.
Let her know that you are putting the jar up for safekeeping. Once the change in the jar reaches a dollar, make a big show of slowly counting it out. If she wants, you can replace her change with a dollar bill in the jar, but chances are, she’d rather keep all those coins. To a toddler, several coins are more appealing than a single dollar.
When she has earned enough for a small treat, let her get one – it might be an ice cream cone or a pack of stickers. Let her know she has earned her treat with all her hard work. Before long, she’ll be ready to do more chores to earn some more adult money.
Shannon Serpette is a mother of two and an award-winning journalist and freelancer who lives in Illinois. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.