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Teaching kids money basics

January 16, 2012
By JOHN PEPIN - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MUNISING - An educator with the Michigan State University Extension service in Alger County said that with the help of familty members, even the youngest children can learn the value of money and how to save it.

"Most children are given a piggy bank by a caring relative at birth or early in their lives," said MSU Extension educator Joan Vinette. "If parents encourage children to put 'found' money into their piggy bank and then use that accumulated change to plan for the purchase of something special the child really wants, it becomes a life lesson."

Vinette said parents can help children understand the importance of planning for purchases by not filling a child's request for a wanted item, but instead encouraging them to count the money they have saved in their piggy bank and see how much more they need to earn to be able to purchase the item they want.

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"This gives the child a chance to have a vested interest in acquiring the wanted item," Vinette said. "Beyond the lesson learned about a childhood purchase, this strategy helps to prepare a child for the adult world where effective money management involves planning for expenses and purchases."

Vinette said that as a grandparent, friend, aunt or uncle, you too can help introduce children to saving habits. She suggested that at birthdays or other gifting occasions, try giving the child a bag of loose change. Then make it a game to sort and count those coins when you are together. Vinette said it will be time well spent and a chance to suggest dividing the money received into different piles, with one designated for saving, another for an immediate wish, and possibly another for sharing (donations to church, a community cause that the family values).

Vinette said to start young with this approach to money. She recounted a personnel experience she had on a recent visit with her 4- and 6-year-old grandchildren. She told them they could all play a game together.

"I had brought a small pouch of coins. We sat on the floor, dumped out the coins. Then I asked each child to pick out 10 pennies. After they had their pile in front of them, they counted the coins," Vinette said. "Then I gave them two nickels and we talked about how the two silver coins were the same as the 10 copper pennies. Next came the comparison to the thin silver dime. At the completion of that activity, they got to put all the coins in front of them into the little container I had brought each of them. Then we did random gathering and counting activities with the coins, so they could 'win' more money."

Vinette said the 6-year-old was able to count by fives and tens, so this was an added opportunity to show how 20 nickels equal four quarters, two half dollars, and one silver dollar or a paper dollar.

"With piles of actual money, the children arranged them to look like flowers, with ten pennies forming the petals and stem and a center dime, showing both had the same value," Vinette said. "The second day I was there, they asked if we could play the money game again. This interactive time spent together, reminded me how casual learning is so valuable in the development of young children."

Vinette said she and her grandchildren continued discussions about what they would save their money for and what the things they liked actually cost.

"The opportunities for adults to demonstrate money principles are limitless," Vinette said. "Use your imagination, but start today. Reach out to kids at whatever age they are."

Vinette said for youth aged 13 and older, consider introducing them to the Young America Saves program. They can join this on-line saving program, make a commitment to save and track their efforts. It is offered at America Saves Week at:

For more information, contact Vinette by phone at the MSU Extension office in Munising at 387-2530 or send email to her at

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.



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