Middle childhood

In middle childhood, young people start to pay attention to the financial world around them. They start to absorb habits and attitudes about what’s typical and what’s popular. Peers become important – but their parents are still the most important influence on their financial world.

Featured activities for middle childhood

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Bingo on the go

In your community or as you travel, check off the places you see and talk about how each place is funded – public, private, nonprofit, or a combination of these.

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What’s on a receipt

Show your child how you estimate the price you’ll pay at the register and practice rounding up to include sales tax.

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Money as You Grow book club

Use children’s books to learn key money concepts through reading, play, and quiet one-on-one talks. For children ages 4 to 10.

Money as you grow: Conversations and activities

“People can get money in different ways, and sometimes that means they spend it in different ways.”

  • You might decide to give your child an allowance. For your child’s development, the most important part of an allowance is talking with you about his plans for the money.
  • Your child might want to earn extra money. Talk about what is considered “extra” in your family and how to earn it.
  • Your child might receive money as a gift. Help your child decide how to use this money.
  • Your child may bring up his friends and peers, so be prepared to discuss your family’s unique situation and priorities.

“Lots of people put money in a savings account to protect it and receive interest on their savings.”

  • Visit a nearby federally insured bank or credit union with your child, or show her your online bank site.
  • Look at interest rates on savings accounts.
  • Discuss with your child how money in savings accounts is safe and protected. If the bank goes out of business, she will get her money back.
  • Open a savings account with your child.
  • Listen and talk to your child if she mentions how her friends and peers use banks and other financial services.

“It’s a good habit to save at least a dime for every dollar you receive.”

  • Remind your child about reasons to save: to have the freedom to make choices, to smooth out ups and downs, and to feel security.
  • Practice saving by setting a goal for something your child wants, breaking it down into small steps, and helping him take those steps.
  • Encourage your child to save 10% of the money he gets.
  • To reinforce the savings habit, go to the bank two to three times a year with your child to deposit savings into his account, and look at how much bigger the balance is on each visit.
  • Consider a “matching plan” for your child’s savings: You put in 25 cents for every dollar he saves. Encourage your child to draw, make a chart, or tell a story about how this helps his money grow.

“Lots of people make lists and plans for what they want to buy with their money.”

  • Practice making a list before you go to a store or on a shopping trip. Talk about how easy or hard it is to stick to the list.
  • Ask your child to set a goal for something she wants, and talk about the steps it would take to get it. Over time, check in to see how the steps are going and whether that goal is still important.
  • Share your own tips and strategies for how you make plans and get yourself to stick to them.
  • Play strategy games like Chinese checkers and mancala to strengthen your child’s focus on planning ahead.

“It’s a good habit to shop around and compare prices before you buy.”

  • With your child, compare prices for a particular toy at various online or brick-and-mortar stores.
  • Use coupons and discount cards, and show your child how much you are saving. Consider allowing him to keep part of the savings, if he helps clip or print out coupons.
  • Share stories about times you successfully shopped for a better deal – or missed out.

“Think twice when you see an advertisement or special offer.”

  • Explain that “free” offers online, such as cell phone ringtones or games, can be scams to get people to spend money without realizing it.
  • Remind your child that even though advertising tries to get you to spend more money, you are the one who decides when you spend and what you buy.
  • Talk to your child about times when it’s easy to buy something, like one-click purchases inside a game, or adding something small to what you’re already buying. Explain that’s a good time to slow down and think twice.
  • Listen to your child’s stories about how friends and peers shop and spend, and talk about your family’s habits and priorities.
  • If you’ve been taken in by a scam, don’t be afraid to share the story and what you learned to avoid.

“You should avoid using a credit card to buy things you can’t afford to pay for with cash.”

  • Discuss why having a savings and spending plan in place could help your child avoid building up credit card debt.
  • Explain that using a credit card is the same as borrowing money. Unless you pay it back in full every month, you have to pay a percentage of the amount you borrow as an extra cost, called interest.
  • Drive home this standard: When you use a credit card, aim to pay it back in full each month. Otherwise, you could pay more because you add interest charges.
  • Discuss why people should not use credit cards to buy something that they can’t afford to pay for with cash.
  • Discuss how a credit card can be useful for making purchases online, or as a convenience, when you pay it back each month.
  • Share your own strategy for using credit cards and what you’ve learned about managing your credit.

“It’s a good habit to avoid sharing information online.”

  • Know the websites your child visits. Block any inappropriate sites using parental control software.
  • For her safety, make it a rule that your child never gives out any personal information—like her birthdate, address, phone number, or school – when on the computer.
  • Don’t allow her to buy anything online without your permission.
  • Explain that entering personal information, like a bank or credit card number, online is risky because someone could steal it. Thieves can use Social Security numbers or other personal information to open credit cards or create fake documents.
  • Make it a rule that your child never answers emails from someone she doesn’t know and never clicks on pop-up ads.
  • Visit Identity Theft for tips on information security.
  • Share your own positive or negative experiences with online privacy.

What’s going on with your child, developmentally?

During middle childhood, young people:

  • Absorb the financial attitudes, habits, and decision-making shortcuts that help us navigate our day-to-day financial lives.
  • Notice what’s typical within their circle of family and acquaintances—for example, using a physical bank, credit union, online bank, money management app, check cashing service, or a combination of these.
  • Feel the pull of shopping and advertising, as well as peer pressure—though parents can be a stronger influence than peers when it comes to money.

Find out more about how kids develop skills, habits, and attitudes that contribute to their financial well-being as adults.

Put it all together with our downloadable summary of financial development, along with supporting activities and resources for middle childhood.