Money seems to be stretched more and more these days and the earlier we can get our children thinking about the value of money the easier they will find saving. There are two important parts to saving, having an idea of the value of money and understanding delayed gratification (the idea of waiting for a reward later). As with everything you do with toddlers it has to be taught through play and exploring but here are several games you can play.
Being able to identify the different coins is the first step to understanding the value of the coins. Look at them with your toddler and ask them to find some that look the same. They may put all the silver ones together or the small ones or the round ones. Then ask them to look for differences between the coins. Can they find any that are exactly the same? Giving time for your toddler to explore the coins will allow them to become familiar with them.
When you are shopping they will soon be able to pick out the correct coins for you to pay with. Taking rubbings of the coins is a more active way of investigating coins and can also create lovely pictures. Not only will all this play with coins help your child to become more familiar with the different coins but it will also help explore different language and sorting skills. As your toddler becomes older discuss the different numbers on the coins, use this to start the idea that they have a particular value.
As your toddler is exploring the different types of coins, understanding when they are used is also important. In my experience children love role playing, so much so there are know loads of role play centres opening up around the country. Setting up a shop or restaurant where the children pretend to buy and sell food. You can easily find cheap shopping baskets, food, and money to help with the role play. If you do not want to buy these things they making your own would be another great way to show your child the different coins and the importance of recycling. Use old cereal boxes, milk bottles, etc from around the house to fill up your shop.
To role play an idea children first have to have some experience to draw upon so take your children shopping. As a mother of two under 3, I understand the dread that is accompanied with that sentence but I have found some great ways to make shopping with toddlers fun for all involved. Quite simply get them involved with the process.
Lists I have found to be essential. Shopping to a list is a great skill to teach your children, as they get older it will help them budget, but for a toddler it will help keep them interested. Clearly, no toddler is going to be writing and reading lists but they can read pictures. Create a picture list. It will take a bit of time to set up but once you have you will be able to use it every week.
Draw, print out or cut out pictures of the different foods you buy then if you’re feeling particularly energized laminate them. Stick Velcro or blu-tack on the back of each item and stick them on some card to create your list. Your toddler can then take off each item you buy and when they want something extra you can ask them is it on the list? If not, we can’t buy it! As your toddler gets a little older then can help you find and cut out coupons to use and add these to the list.
Teaching toddlers about delayed gratification can be hard – nearing on the impossible, but it is a vital skill if they are going to become good savers.
Where to start? I think the easiest place would be discussing what the toddler wants for Christmas or birthday. This has to be done in advance but is often done close enough that is only a couple of weeks away. Although it feels like a life time for the toddler it is close enough that if it spoken about the particular item they really want is still fresh in their mind and still wanted.
Move that idea into saving money. That money box that every child seems to get when they are born or for their first birthday would be perfect for this. When your toddler asks for something that you don’t want to just buy them, take the opportunity to talk about saving. Explain that every day (or week but this might be too long to keep their interest) you will put aside 50p or £1 into their money box to save up for the particular item. The idea of putting some money away will then become the norm when there is something they really want. The idea that they can just have it will hopefully be replaced with the idea that they have to save and wait before they can have it.
As your children get older they can take a more active role in their savings but until then, they are relying on you to help them explore and play through the minefield that is saving.