Money Smart Kids


Games, Books and Web Sites That Teach Kids Money Skills

Janet Bodnar

These resources will help kids of all ages learn about personal finance.



Since I started writing about kids and money in the 1990s, the volume of curricula and other resources designed to help parents and educators teach kids about finance has grown so fast that it’s hard to keep up. I’ve written a number of columns about books, games, Web sites and other products that I find particularly noteworthy (see Getting Kids to Start Saving, Think Like a Kid and Sites That Foster Good Money Skills).

To mark Financial Literacy Month (April) and Teach Children to Save Day (April 24), I’d like to expand the list with an eclectic mix of resources for kids of all ages. And I’d like to thank my trusty testers, who help me keep track of and evaluate all the new items that ping my in-box.

GAMES

In Wi$e Money (www.destinagames.com, $34.99), kids make a circuit of the game board by correctly answering questions in several categories: Budgeting and Payday, Banking and Investing, and even ID Theft. Example: “If you kept a budget notebook, what would you list in it?” My tester pronounced the game “fairly sophisticated but a good bit of fun.” Aimed at kids age 13 and up, there’s also a classroom version.

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The Wants & Needs Game (www.dynamindspublishing.com, $11.95) is a clever and fast-paced card game that teaches kids the difference between wants and needs and even sharpens their debating skills. Players take turns acting as the “judge” and calling out “want” or “need.” The other players throw down the best card in their hand that best qualifies (for example, “jeans,” “bath towel,” “pocket knife,” “bicycle,” “digital camera”) and then have to defend their decision. The judge picks the best answer.

Kids Count (www.nfikidscount.org, $25; $20 for educators), developed by Indiana State University’s Scott College of Business, is a colorful question-and-answer board game with multiple-choice and true-false questions for children age 8 and up. Example: “True or False: A piggy bank is a safer place than a bank vault to store your money.” Comes with materials for teachers.

Mr. Bigshot (www.mrbigshot.com, $29.95) is an engaging stock-market game that pits two companies against one another in a head-to-head matchup. Players try to choose the company they think will come out on top. The hook: Matchups represent real market situations that occurred in the past 35 years (example: Howard Johnson versus Intel in 1979).

BOOKS

In Avengers Saving the Day (www.practicalmoneyskills.com), Marvel Comics superheroes (Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, the Black Widow and Giant Man) team up to give new meaning to the theme “saving the day”: They foil bank robbers and give Spidey advice on how to get money for his aunt’s birthday gift. Action-packed, with a glossary of financial terms and a budget worksheet.

Saving is also the theme of a trio of picture books for younger children:

--Joe the Monkey Saves for a Goal, by John Lanza, part of a financial-education series by Snigglezoo Entertainment (www.themoneymammals.com; $5.99).

--The Zela Wela Kids Build a Bank, by Nancy Phillips (www.zelawelakids.com; $15.75), also part of a series.

--Pretty Penny Sets Up Shop, by Devon Kinch (Random House, $16.99).

ON THE WEB

On ING’s Planet Orange (www.orangekids.com), kids in grades 1 to 6 pilot a spaceship to visit four “continents” to learn about the history of money, investing, saving and spending. The presentation is clear and simple, with interactive features that advance the lessons -- for example, a budgeting tool and a pay stub that explains gross pay, deductions, taxes, etc.

EconKids at Rutgers (http://econkids.rutgers.edu) is a treasure trove for parents and teachers looking for books to help kids of all ages learn about money. The bibliography lists books by concept (Entrepreneurs, Opportunity Cost, Saving, Wants and Needs) and chooses a book of the month. Featured for April is The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.

For Me, For You, For Later is a classic 15-minute Sesame Street production (www.sesamestreet.org/save) in which Elmo gives younger kids a lesson in saving and sharing (one of several related videos on the site).

Follow Janet's updates at Twitter.com/JanetBodnar.



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