Online Games Can Teach Kids Money Skills
Games and puzzles can be a useful way to drill kids on the basics of saving and spending from an early age, says Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest.com, a personal finance website for women.
"If it's not fun, no one is going to engage," she says. "It needs to be fun and interactive for the kids."
Kids need to start learning about money early, according to Von Tobel. Research has shown that we start forming our relationships with money at an early age, she tells ParentDish. LearnVest recently launched a channel, LearnVest Moms, to help parents manage money and teach their kids.
"We certainly want both parents involved in that process," she says, but mothers seem to spend more time talking about money and spending with their kids. "All the emails that we get are about mothers teaching their kids about money," she says.
Here are some websites that combine financial education information with fun and games:
The Great Piggy Bank Adventure: This channel of the Walt Disney Co. website is an online version of an Epcot Center attraction.The game is designed to teach concepts about saving and investing to kids ages 8 to 14. They choose an avatar who moves through a virtual fairyland, collecting coins to achieve a goal, such as buying a tree house or a castle. Tasks along the way give the kids a chance to earn or spend cash, while a greedy wolf acts as a stand-in for inflation, stealing the players' coins.
Financial Entertainment: The games on this website from the Doorways to Dreams Foundation, a financial education nonprofit, are meant to teach real-world financial skills to low-income young women. In one game, Celebrity Calamity, players must act as the business manager of a star, collecting money for gigs and paying debt and credit card bills to keep the client both happy and solvent; their success is measured in a career ladder that goes from "coffee fetcher" to "executive pardner." Another game just released, Groove Nation, uses a dance competition to teach budgeting concepts.
Practical Money Skills: This financial literacy website from Visa Corp. has a section with games, including Financial Football and Financial Soccer, quiz games for teens and tweens where their answers determine how their team does in a match. In another game, Road Trip to Savings, they maneuver an animated car, collecting cash for odd jobs and chores to "buy" food, gas and insurance, while dodging expenses such as CDs and movie tickets. Younger kids can play Ed's Bank, a game where they race the clock to drag moving coins into a piggy bank, then go to a virtual store and spend the money on items for Ed, an animated character.
Orangekids.com: The kids' site of online bank ING Direct has two multicultural astronauts, Cedric and Amy, who guide players around the alien Planet Orange. There, they hold down jobs such as deep-space cleanup and complete missions to earn obux, the planet's currency. Each continent in Planet Orange has an activity built around one aspect of earning or spending income, such as the value of money and setting a budget. The site, which has areas with information for parents and teachers, is designed for kids in first through sixth grade.
Rich Kid, Smart Kid: The kids' education site of the Rich Dad organization (Of the "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" fame) has an area of games and puzzles with levels that go from preschool to high school. Games like Jesse's Ice Cream Stand and Reno's Debt Dilemma explain concepts such as borrowing and investing by following a group of animated mice as they open up an ice cream stand or travel to an amusement park.
Related: Use Recession to Teach Kids Sensible Spending
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.