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How to Teach Your Kids About Money with Games

Susan Yoo-Lee

Time and time again, I get asked by other parents how I teach my kids about the importance of saving, sharing and spending money. Of course, there isn't one easy answer because it's dependent on the child's age, personality and level of interest.

My oldest, who is now 8, showed interest in money well before she could even put a sentence together. She had a savings account by the time she was 9 months old and her savings exceeds what my husband and I saved together for our future. The moment I saw that she was interested in money, I started giving her small tasks to do around the house such as putting her toys away, making sure she put the dishes in dishwasher and made sure she got rewarded with stickers next to those tasks. When she collected 10 stickers, she received $1 for her efforts. She chose to use that money toward buying ice cream at the park. The change that she got back was put in her plastic piggy bank.

My 4 year old is a different story. She is the complete opposite of my oldest and is only interested in spending money. The second she gets money, she wants to spend it. Since the "task method," as I call it, worked for my older one, I thought it would work for my younger one, but boy was I wrong. It worked for about a month and she quickly got bored.

I'm a firm believer that the earlier you teach your child about money, the smarter choices they will make later. So in order to engage my 4 year old and keep instilling those values in my 8 year old, I chose to take a more hands-on approach with board games. Here are five of the ones I tested out:

1. The Allowance Game by Lakeshore Learning. A perfect starter game that teaches your kids about spending, saving and sharing (donating) money. My 4 year old suddenly went from big spender to big saver because the winner of the game is the first player to save $20. My 8 year old out her change-making skills to the test as the banker. Initially, I thought that my older kid would be bored and my younger one would be too challenged, but they were both engaged throughout the game. It's simple for everyone to understand and fun for most ages -- I even enjoyed it.

2. Payday (The Classic Edition). I vaguely remember playing this game as a child and that was the reason I ordered the game to refresh my own memories. While the game was a lot of fun for me and the kids, it really doesn't represent how money works in the real world -- more like the gamblers' world. Like the real world, you could land on "Buy Groceries" and spend $200, Charity Walk and even get mail which included bills that were anywhere from $100 to $500. I didn't like that it had a Sweepstakes, Lottery, Family Casino Night and Jackpot spots. Making and spending money was way too easy and there was no place that you could save money. You could loan money from the bank where you would pay a 10 percent interest on the loan, but even that wasn't educational enough because the loan could easily be paid off with either a Jackpot or winning the Lottery. I think the game would have been more successful if it had a savings portion to it and the dollar amounts were more realistic.

3. CASHFLOW for Kids created by Rich Dad Poor Dad Author, Robert Kiyosaki. On the box it states, "What the rich teach their kids about money." At first glance, the game seemed more complicated than just your average roll the die and move spaces type of game, but after playing it, it was quite easy and self-explanatory. Everyone started out with $3,000 worth of money and $700 worth of monthly expenses. With each Asset card, you had the ability to add to your passive income (you know the money that you make while you're brushing your teeth) and with every Liability card, you either had to pay up or add it to your expenses. Every time you landed on or passed the blue space, you collected your income which was a $1,000 salary, plus your passive income. Once you had more assets than your expenses, you won the game. The recommended age for this game was 6, which I thought was on the younger side, but maybe this is how the rich do it.

4. Buy It Right by Learning Resources. My kids absolutely loved this game. It is recommended for ages 5 through 9, but my 4 year old loved it (I had to help her with coin recognition). It's basically a board game about shopping and paying the lowest price for any purchase you make. Depending on where you land, you can buy up to two items, get money from the ATM, lose money or get a 2 for 1 coupon. Every time you pass Start, you collect a $10 allowance. Once you collect all the items needed for your shopping cart, you are the winner. My kids learned how to arrange the three dice in order to pay the least amount for items purchased and also arranged them so that they could get the most money when they landed on the ATM. The game was very engaging and I would recommend this to any parents wanting to teach basic money concepts. The coins and money look very real.

5. Money Bags by Learning Resources. This was a perfect coin refresher course for my 8 year old. If you have a visual math learner, this game will do it. For every space they land on, they earn money for tutoring, feeding the fish, putting the groceries away and more. Each chore is correlated to an amount they earn. Before they take the money from the bank, they have to spin the wheel, which excludes a certain coin from being used. If you're suppose to earn $0.44 for washing the floor, but your spin says that you can't use a quarter, then your child will have to come up with a different coin combination. The recommended age is 7 and up, which is age appropriate.

Susan Yoo-Lee is the editor of Savings.com personal finance blog and founder of Mommas in the House blog.

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