School’s out, let the learning begin!

Summer’s here and children across the country are thrilled to have the freedom to get outside and play with friends.

Summer’s here and children across the country are thrilled to have the freedom to get outside and play with friends. Or not. After spending the school year locked into a rigid schedule, some kids have no idea what to do with unlimited free time and the dreaded, “I’m bored,” laments begin.

If that’s what you’re hearing around your house (and I’ll admit, it’s not unheard of in mine) it may be an opportunity to sneak in some fun lessons on money and business. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Go out for a frozen treat. Even when Adam is being “lazy” and has zero interest in going to the park or riding his bike, he’s usually willing to walk with me to get a popsicle or freezie from the convenience store. (There’s one around the corner from our house, but I insist on going to one that’s about 15 minutes up the road so we can get a good walk out of it.) But here’s the money lesson—I let him go to the counter to pay. He likes to do it because he feels more grown up, it gets him familiar with the values of the various coins, and I make sure he counts the change. Eventually, he’ll also learn that it’s much cheaper to make our own popsicles at home, which is another valuable lesson.

Open a lemonade stand. This tried and true summer activity has not only kept wayward children busy for generations but, for many, it’s also been a lesson in running a business. To help kids better understand the concept, take them with you to buy the supplies. Whether you’re buying ready-made lemonade from concentrate or making your own with fresh lemons and sugar, make sure the cost of the ingredients, cups or anything else you’re purchasing is taken into consideration. Then determine together how much to charge for each serving so as to at least break even. Explain that any money earned after all those expenses are paid is called a profit, and that’s the amount your child can keep.

Market a service. This is better suited for older children, but even young kids can sometimes find ways to provide a needed service to neighbours, friends or family. Adam, for example, spent an afternoon picking dandelions from my mother’s backyard—something she wanted done before they went to seed. When I was 11, my neighbour hired me to walk her dog after dinner every night (being summer, it was still light out). And, unlike the lemonade stand, there’s no overhead so it’s easier to make a profit.

Play a board game. Monopoly, The Game of Life and Payday are good choices for teaching kids about money, investing and financial responsibility. Card games, Snakes and Ladders and Bingo are great for little ones still learning numeracy skills.

Do you think it’s important to keep kids’ minds, as well as their bodies, active throughout the summer? How do you incorporate learning into your child’s activities?

About the Author

Tamar Satov

Managing Editor, CPA magazine
Tamar is a journalist specializing in business, parenting and personal finance. She blogs regularly in this space with advice and anecdotes on her efforts to raise a money-smart kid.

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