Teaching Your Children to Set Their First Savings Goal


by Karyn Hodgens, Kids' Personal Finance Educator and Elementary Mathematics Specialist

All parents want their children to succeed in life. We teach them to say 'please' and 'thank you' and show them how to share and get along with others. We help them learn the numbers and show them how to write their name. And we spend hours helping them balance on their bike so they can take off into the sunset on two wheels.

In all of this, sometimes teaching our kids the life skills of understanding money gets short shrift. Often it's simply because we are not sure where to start or what to do. But the good news is, teaching our kids practical money skills is not that difficult, especially when we weave it into our children's daily lives.

Take, for example, teaching kids to set personal financial goals. It may seem lofty to teach 4 and 5-year olds to set goals but, believe it or not, given the opportunity, and with your guidance, these youngsters are quite capable of learning how to use their own money to purchase something they want. And since these lessons are done in the context of things that are meaningful and relevant to their lives, deeper learning takes place.

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 kids learn important money skills that they'll take with them into adulthood.

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 $10. 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.

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 young child 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 that are preparing her for success in life.

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Karyn is co-founder of Math Unity LLC, an educational company specializing in elementary mathematics. She has a BA in Child Development, a Masters of Arts in Education with a Specialization in Elementary Mathematics and a multiple subjects teaching credential. Her passion is designing real-world lessons that resonate with kids and their interests. Karyn is the creator of Nifty Numbers, Math Medley, Gellin' with Geometry and Play and Take Family Math Night kits. These kits were designed to build strong family-school partnerships and get parents involved in fun and engaging math activities with their children. To find out more, visit www.FamilyMathNight.com