With children unexpectedly home from school–from preschool through college–you may be looking for ways to keep your kids engaged and learning. We have created games and activities that can help your children and young adults gain money skills. Best of all, you don’t need to be a money expert to use them. Here are some tips and activities to help you teach your kids about personal finances.
To build money skills, follow the three building blocks
We have conducted research on how children and young adults develop the financial capability that they’ll need in adulthood. We break this down into three “building blocks” that children acquire as they grow. All our financial education activities are based on these three building blocks:
The ability to plan ahead, remember information, multitask, solve problems, and control impulses. Children develop these abilities as early as age 3 and continue building them throughout childhood.
Financial habits and values
People use standards, shortcuts, routine practices, and rules to live by, in navigating daily financial activities. These areas develop quickly during elementary school and in the preteen years.
Financial decision-making skills
It is important to build familiarity with financial concepts and competency in research and analysis. Teenagers and young adults have good opportunities to develop these skills.
Using the building blocks as a framework can help you keep your conversations about money age-appropriate. If your children have questions about money topics, you can keep the building blocks in mind when you answer. For example, if your child asks about credit cards, here’s how you might answer:
For a young child, emphasize planning ahead
“Buying something with a credit card might not look like I’m spending money, but I am. I’m making a promise to pay my credit card bill later, and I have to keep my promise.”
For a school-age child, connect to your values
“Credit cards are convenient, and it’s important to use them wisely. My personal rule is to use cash for anything under $20, to make sure small things don’t add up to a big credit card bill.”
For a teenager, build research skills
“Let’s find an online calculator to see how much it costs to pay off a $1,000 credit card bill by paying the minimum balance each month.”
Free financial education activities for parents to use with their kids
We’ve compiled some of our Money As You Grow and Youth Financial Education classroom activities for you to use with your kids. To use the classroom activities, you may want to read or download the teacher guide yourself, and then print the student guide and activities for your child or allow them to complete the worksheets digitally.
Preschool (ages 3 to 5): Build money foundations
Children ages 3 to 5 are usually too young to understand abstract financial concepts, but they can build a foundation to serve them well in the future. These resources help your child with executive function – the ability to plan ahead, delay gratification, multitask, solve problems, resist impulses, and more.
- Play pretend – Pretending helps children focus, think flexibly, and plan ahead. Use the scenarios in the activity or use your own imagination!
- Space Journey Choices – In this activity, your child decides what to bring on a tiny rocket ship. Help them practice making choices and tradeoffs with limited resources, a key part of money management.
- Money as You Grow Bookshelf – Read some of these popular children’s books and use our parent guides to help talk through the money lessons. Note: If you don’t have the books, you can still use the activities on the last pages of the guides. See the books that are part of the Bookshelf.
- Active games that build self-control – These help children learn how to wait, follow directions, pay attention, and practice controlling their behavior. Examples: Follow the Leader, Simon Says, and Red Light Green Light.
School-age children (ages 6-12): Absorb financial habits and rules of thumb
Between the ages of 6 and 12, you can help children absorb guidelines and day-to-day habits that shape how they earn, save, and shop. Help your school-age child or preteen develop financial habits and values. Keep in mind that discussing these activities with your child – as they go, or afterward – can help them process and use what they’re learning.
- Bingo on the go – While practicing physical distancing, drive or walk around your community and check off different types of places around your home and talk about how each place is funded – public, private, nonprofit, or a combination of these.
- Using idioms to promote saving – Every language has wise sayings or phrases that offer advice on how to live responsibly and thoughtfully. In this activity, your child can explore English expressions that use figurative speech to better understand financial concepts like saving and earning. Download the money expressions activity.
- Building a good borrowing reputation – People with a good reputation as a borrower are more likely to earn the trust of a lender. In this activity, your child analyzes the profiles of three different people to decide what kind of borrowing reputation they have. Download the borrowing reputation activity.
- Test the claims of a TV commercial – Explain to your child that TV commercials use special words, music, and settings to make us want to buy. In our bookshelf parent guide for “Bargain for Frances,” it discusses an activity to help your child realize how commercials can impact our thinking. We can be disappointed if we buy something advertised without checking it out first.
- Money As You Grow Bookshelf Parent Guides – Even if your child has outgrown the books, you can still download the Parent Guides and turn to the last pages for activities to do around the house. Visit Money As You Grow Bookshelf.
Teens and young adults (ages 13 to 18): Research and practice making money decisions
Teens and young adults generally start to earn money and make decisions on their own. Adult supervision, guidance, and feedback can help them navigate successfully. Below you’ll find some selected activities for your teenager or young adult that help with financial knowledge and decision-making – the research and comparison shopping skills that help them find trustworthy information, process it, and apply it to their own situation. Keep in mind that discussing money decisions with a trusted adult can help teens gain confidence in their own reasoning.
- Family members’ jobs – With this activity, your teen can reach out to family members to research and compare the jobs they hold and what education and training it took to get there. .
- Reading about insurance – Insurance helps protect people from health and financial risks. In this activity, your teen learns ways to protect themselves from risk and avoid high costs when something goes wrong. Download the reading about insurance activity.
- Choosing the best cell phone plan for you – Product research and comparison shopping help people make informed buying decisions. Your teenager can research the features and costs of cell phones and cell phone plans and use a decision matrix to compare options. Download the cell phone plan choice activity.
- Reporting fraud and identity theft to authorities – Fraud and identity theft hurt millions of Americans every year. In this activity, your teen matches fraud and identity theft crime descriptions with appropriate action steps to take in the event of a real-life crime. Download the fraud and identity theft reporting activity.
FDIC Money Smart
Check out these resources from our partners at the FDIC! They have activities, lessons, and ideas to help children strengthen money habits and values.
FDIC Money Smart parent and caregiver guides:
Sign up for the latest financial tips and information right to your inbox.
Find more information regarding COVID-19 from CFPB
We’re working to continuously update information for consumers during this rapidly evolving situation.
We will publish all COVID-19-related information and blogs to our resource page. Information should be considered accurate as of the blog publish date.