Trying to Teach a 6-year Old About the Value of Money

This past weekend, I found myself shopping at a local big-box store with my family. When I turned the corner down a new aisle and saw a special 28” holiday Barbie® Doll, I knew instantly that my 6-year old would want it. I noticed that it was on sale for a reasonable price but continued on my way.

Sure enough my daughter came bounding behind me wide-eyed. She really, really wanted that doll! So much so that she carried it around the store for the rest of our shopping trip. It was quite the sight to see a little girl carrying around a box that was almost as big as she was! I secretly admitted to myself that it was a very cute display of dedication, but I said nothing.

Eventually, we headed toward the registers with my child in tow, still carrying the box. Here we stopped to have a discussion. She asked me again if she could get the doll. I pointed to my cart of supplies and said no. She would have to ask her father. He also said no and reminded her that she had not been on her best behavior that morning. However, she was determined. Seeing a melt-down in the making, I had a flash of brilliance.

I figured that this might be a perfect opportunity to teach her the value of money! I first checked with my husband, then told her that she could buy the doll, BUT she would have to use her own money. When we got home she would have to go through her piggy-bank and count out the money to pay us back. I thought it would be a good opportunity to show her how much money twenty dollars really was. She happily agreed.

At this point, my older daughter piped in and said “What about me? I’ve been good today.” When raising children you always try to be as fair as possible. We told her we would find something that she could buy but that it should be something that she really wanted. She knew exactly what that was, so we stopped by the book store on the way home and let her pick out a book.

As soon as we got home, both girls ran to get their piggy banks to keep up their end of the bargain. I thought this was a good start! Right off I noticed that my youngest child seemed to have all the silver coins and my older daughter had mostly pennies. I know that they occasionally like to play with their money so I thought something a bit fishy was going on. But, I didn’t say anything. After all, that wasn’t the lesson I was trying to instill this particular day.

We tried to show our six year old how to count out the coins by making piles of dollars. We told her that a dollar equaled four quarters, ten dimes, twenty nickels or one-hundred pennies. However she can be a bit stubborn and didn’t want to listen. Seeing this, her father told her to count out the money. If she gave him less than the $20 dollars owed, she would have to start over, but if she gave him over, he would keep it as a lesson.

She handed over the money and he created piles to represent each dollar owed. In total, she had given him $31 dollars in quarters! He showed her each pile and explained the overage but she was not in the least concerned. “Can I have my dolly now?” she said and happily went on her way. Okay, so I see a few more lessons are in order for that one!

Now, it was my older daughter’s turn. She is nine. We explained the same process to her. Her book was $13.00. First she handed me 13 pennies. I explained this was not enough and again showed her how to make piles that equaled a dollar. Second, she gave me $1.13. I said try again. Finally, she counted out her change. She had eight dollars. I explained that was not enough and had her do the math to figure out how much she still owed.

Here is where the fishy difference between the two piggy banks comes into play. She would have to ask her sister for the other $5.00. I explained that if she borrowed the money that she would have to pay her sister back. But if her sister gave her the money she would not have to pay it back. They worked it out and she gave me the money for the book.

From this little experiment, it is evident that I will need to create more lessons about money before it really sinks in for my children. But you have to start somewhere! At six and nine years old, I believe it is a great time to start with mini-lessons like these. The goal is to show them that things cost money, and hopefully give them an idea of what that amount of money really looks like. Eventually, with a little time and patience, I hope that they will learn the value of money and how that relates to the real world.

What about you? How do you teach your children about money? Have you tried any lessons that worked? Any that didn’t? We would love to hear your stories!

One Response to “Trying to Teach a 6-year Old About the Value of Money

  • Debbie Roy
    3 years ago

    Of course we didn’t really keep the money. They will get it back… eventually.


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