Ah, a child's world - full of magic and fun. As parents, grandparents, and other assorted relatives, a child's conception, understanding, and knowledge of money comes in many forms. There are birthday and holiday gifts, going shopping with grandma, and even helping a small child select a gift for mom and dad. While on the surface all this is just fine and good, have you ever stopped to think exactly what you are teaching this small person about finances and money - knowledge that will last them a lifetime and either make life easier to handle or more difficult.

Money sure doesn't grow on trees - but to today's small children, it does come out of machines. Mom or Dad just press some magic keys and a whole bunch of money comes out - In a store, a small plastic fit-in-your-hand card will get you anything from candy to a new outfit. Kids have a lot of fun playing grown-up and using credit cards and taking cash from ATM's - but do they know that the credit card bill has to be paid, or that the money from the machine is really your money - first placed in an account, then being able to be taken out.

Even the smallest of children can understand some basic facts about money. A lost glove or shoe will result in a trip to the store and money paid out for shoes or gloves. School lunches cost money and the teacher will collect that evelope before the child gets a meal. The friendly person behind the counter at McDonald's will not give you your food until you give them some pieces of paper and some metal coins.

You are not taking the fun out of an outing if you do visit an ATM or use a credit card with a child. Just a few words - explained as simply as you can - that no the machine is not actually giving you the machine's money - and that that plastic card is not actually buying the toy or the lunch. Letting a child have some money and then spend it on whatever they choose is a great way to teach a bit of finances. They will soon realize that if they buy something, they will have less to spend some-where else or on something else.

Children are great imitators - whether we act the way we want them to see us or not. If you show very little concern for money - so will the child. If you let the child in on family discussions about sacrifices that will have to be made in order to buy a new car, etc. that child may not understand the full ramifications of the family project, but will begin to see a pattern forming. You must do something in order to get something. "Let's not go to dinner tonight - instead we'll stay home and watch movies so that we can go to the carnival tomorrow."

Give up something in order to get something - simple, and yet this simple message will leave an imprint that will equate thought before spending, and wanting to know more about the wonderful world of money. Money is here to stay and will be an integral part of a child's future. They are never too young to begin forming good impressions of money and how to use it properly to enhance your life or bring pleasure to others through gifts and through charity.

Whatever you do with money while you are with a child, take a moment to explain a bit - just a few short sentences to let the child know what you are doing and why. The magical world of money will not be something to fear, or to use without responsibility - a few moments for a life-long lesson of value. Seems fair - so

©Arleen M. Kaptur 2003 September
Arleen has written books and articles on
simple rustic living.
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