All parents want their children to succeed in school. And since Kindergarten is a child’s first exposure to “formal” schooling, preparing them for success is an important first step on the academic ladder. But “preparing” our kids for academic success does not mean completing reams of worksheets and stacks of flashcards. It’s actually a lot easier than that. It simply requires looking for opportunities to seamlessly tie “lessons” into daily life. And the good news is, because these lessons are done in the context of things that are meaningful and relevant to children’s lives, deeper learning takes place.
Money is a good example. Most kids are familiar with it. In fact, most two-year olds already know that this thing called money buys stuff. By the time they are four and five, they’ve had a lot of money experiences, from watching mom and dad pay for things at the store to receiving money as birthday gifts. We can use these opportunities to sneak in some lessons and begin to prepare them for what they will be learning once they head off to school.
The Kindergarten curriculum includes learning about coins: their names, values, and some simple equivalencies. The following activity covers each of these in the context of having kids set their first personal financial goal. Seem lofty? Believe it or not, given the opportunity, and with your guidance, 4- and 5-year olds are quite capable of learning how to use their own money to purchase something they want.
The “lesson” begins as soon as you hear your four-year old utter the words can I have? That’s because the question, Can I have, creates a teaching opportunity that is immediately relevant and meaningful. The answer, Sure, let’s create a goal that will help you save enough money to buy it, will help your child learn skills that will become useful in Kindergarten and beyond.
Since it’s important that kids experience success with their first financial goal, start with an item that has a relatively small price tag…under $5. Through an allowance or some Above-and-Beyond Jobs (extra things kids can do to earn money), help your child figure out about how long it will take her to achieve her goal. Print and fill in the My Savings Goal activity sheet. Then print out the paper coins (from the My Savings Goal activity sheet) and cut out and paste her target amount onto the activity sheet. Help her find a clear jar where she can begin to save her coins then have her tape on a picture of the item she is saving for. This will serve as a concrete reminder of her goal.
As she earns money towards her goal, have her color in the coins on the activity sheet. This is a good time to talk to her about the names of the coins and their values. This little one is called a dime. It’s worth 10 cents. Have her describe some of the unique characteristics of each coin: rough edge, smallest, silver, etc. You can even talk about equivalencies such as ten dimes equals one dollar. Just keep in mind that learning takes time. Right now it’s about exposing her to the coin names and values and introducing her to different equivalencies so that when she enters Kindergarten, she’ll bring with her a familiarity which will make classroom lessons on money a little easier.
As her jar slowly fills up, not only will she be learning about coins, but you’ll be reinforcing delayed gratification, not always an easy skill for a youngster to learn. She’ll need on-going words of encouragement from you and perhaps even little saving reminders. Soon, with your support, she’ll walk into that store with her money jar and walk out with her coveted item. There is nothing like the sense of personal satisfaction for having accomplished something you set out to do. We do not want to deny our kids this feeling. We also don’t want to deny ourselves the opportunity to watch our child hand over her hard-earned money with heavy anticipation and excitement, knowing that she has learned some very important life skills.
Kindergarten is a very exciting year. It’s a year of social, emotional, and physical growth. But it is also the beginning of their academic journey. Looking for everyday opportunities to prepare our youngsters for this incredible journey can turn out to be that extra nudge of confidence they need to help set them up for success.