Consider the way most children see the world around them. When they're hungry, food appears on the table. When they're bored, they push a button and they're watching the Cartoon Network or they flick a switch that turns on the computer.
For children, it seems everything is in their immediate grasp. It's not surprising they may not appreciate what it takes to get that TV or why a new bike doesn't fit in the family budget this month. Here are a few active ways to teach children about money.
Children five years and older:
* Play counting games with money. Use coins and dollar bills to play adding and subtracting games.
* Role-play. Set up toys in a "toy store." Take turns playing the customer and the clerk exchanging various amounts of money. When your child is the clerk, hand over too much money so he or she counts the money back to you.
Children 10 years and older:
* Include children on shopping trips to teach them what things cost and smart shopping techniques. Have them help compare product qualities, prices, return policies, and warranties.
Children 15 years and older:
* Play a version of "Let's Pretend," focusing on how much money it takes to run a household. Start by saying, "Let's pretend you're 19 years old and living on your own. You work full time at the local grocery store and earn $5.25 an hour; that's $210 a week and $840 a month-but really $715 once taxes come out."
Figure costs for rent, food, utilities, and other monthly expenses. As a start, review the family's monthly utility bills to show how much things like cable TV and heating the house cost. Then subtract monthly expenses from the $715 monthly earnings. Discuss ways to cut costs--fewer takeout dinners or fewer long-distance phone calls to friends.
It's never too early to teach children the value of money. And, remember True North is here to help them reach all their money goals.