Summer Money Activities for Kids

Shannon Ryan joined us to kick off the new Stacking Benjamins podcast yesterday, and we received a ton of great feedback and requests to “get this in writing.” So, we owe a big thank you to Shannon, who sent over her tips for us. If you missed the podcast, here are some great tips to help kids learn about money. Enjoy!

Summer is the perfect time to start talking to your kids about money as life is less structured, and you have more time to slow down and have these important conversations. And don’t worry–money conversations do not have to be boring! Position them correctly and you can have fun while teaching your kids good, life-long money habits.

1. Set Clear Goals and Make It Fun

Over a favorite family meal, we discuss how we’re going to use our family money in three areas – what will Save our money for; what will Spend our money on; and who will we Share our money with? If your children are older than 6, have them create their own summertime money goals. For example; Save–for a new bike; Spend–during a trip to the ice cream store; Share–with a local charity, such as the humane society where you can deliver your donation in person. Once your kids have their goals, help them find fun ways to earn money. For example, post jobs in the house, a lemonade stand, etc.

Fun Activity: Make goal-setting a fun event and your kids will no longer dread the word “goals”. Celebrate achievements and create friendly, sibling competitions on who can reach their goals first.

2. Slow Down and Have Regular Money Conversations

Some of my best money conversations with the girls happen during our normal activities. For example, take your kids shopping. Have them help you prepare the shopping list to create a clear understanding on what the family “needs” are and where “wants” fit in. At the store, be sure to talk through your purchases with your kids instead of making internal comparisons. For example, why you buy a name

brand vs a store brand for one item and not another.

Activity Idea: See how much money you can save on groceries for the summer. Make a list of needed items and search for coupons and specials. Use the money saved for something fun.

3. Make Your Goals Visual

Post family and individual goals where everyone can see them. You can cut out pictures from magazines or print pictures from the internet to create a vision board for your goals. Set up jars or envelopes for their Save, Spend and Share goals. When they earn money, discuss with them how they want to allocate their money towards their goals.

Activity Idea: Have you kids decorate their jars or envelopes with images of the things they plan to save, spend and share their money on or with.


4. Post Jobs so the Kids Learn How to Earn Money

I am not a believer in allowance, but I do believe you need to find a way to put money in your kids hands, so they can learn to make decisions around it. Each week create a job posting that consists of various chores that are important to running the house, but outside the children’s expected responsibilities (in our house, this includes–making beds, cleaning dishes and cleaning up after themselves).

Fun Activity: Weekly job postings allow kids to pick and choose which jobs they want to do. Plus, they can choose whether to do a lot (and earn a lot) or do little (and earn little). We treat this like a real job and on pay day, if they haven’t done their work to my satisfaction, they may not get paid. Or if they have gone above what the job entailed, they could earn bonus.

5. Let Them Flex Their Decision-Making Muscles!

We all have a finite amount of money, so the earlier you can teach your children to make wise choices with their money–the better! One of the best ways to teach them is to involve them in the decision-making process. You want them to figure out what makes them truly happy, rather

than listening to what others tell them they need. Once they master this, they will spend their money on the things they want and learn to create joy with any amount of money.

Fun Activity: Create an entertainment budget. Give your kids multiple options, some expensive and some not, then let them figure out how to use the money.

Photo: Mosieur J.


Shannon Ryan, CFP® is a Mom on a mission to help busy parents teach their kids simple, value-based principles that guide their money decisions and support their long-term financial well-being. Shannon wrote The Heavy Purse to help parents start money conversations with their children through a fun, bedtime story and developed companion workbooks to help deepen those conversations. Visit to learn more on how to raise Money Smart Kids.

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5 Summer Activities to Create Money Savvy Kids: High School

Ah, we made it! It’s most rewarding yet the most challenging to work with high school students on money management.

While these activities are the most fun for parents, high school students are more difficult to engage than younger children.

If you don’t have high school age children yet, you may not know this, but your brains will disappear for about four or five years.

Looking for tips for younger children? Try:

5 Educational Summer Activities For Kids – Early Elementary


5 Summer Activities to Create Money Savvy Kids: Upper Elementary to Middle School


5 Great High School Activities


1) Family book club. Right now, my 17 year old kids and I are reading I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. If you haven’t read this book yet, by all means, start now. It contains powerful advice wrapped in easy-to-understand language.

Every day the kids read a chapter. Then, at dinner, we discuss that day’s reading. Sometimes these conversations devolve (“why does a stock go up or down?” “what’s a good Roth IRA investment?”), but I love it. Who doesn’t want to have relaxed conversations about money with a curious 17 year old?

Why I like it: I get to ensure my kids get to college with some clue about money before they arrive. Because I made sure the book was fun and easy to read, and because I don’t preach, we’re able to have great talks about money.

2) Engage kids in the Family Meeting. If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know that I love the idea of a family meeting. Budgets within a family are more about good communication than about counting pennies. If everyone is on the same page spending each day will be more careful, and life is made up of these little crisp 24 hour periods.

Some people have a violent reaction to this advice. “Show my kid my bills and my savings? That’s none of their business.” You are correct, but lets challenge your assumptions: why is it taboo to talk about your financial situation with others, especially those as close as your teenager.

Boundaries must be drawn. You’ll have to explain what happens when the whole street learns about your finances. But in the bigger picture, if they help you pay the bills, evaluate savings and plan large purchases, you’ll hand them a lifetime of knowledge that they’ll appreciate down the road.

Why I like it: When we began talking frankly with our children about bills and savings, they began to see how tight every month is for the average family. Next year we were planning on going to France for their graduation. The reality of two children in college at once has set in and we’re downgrading the vacation plan to a rental house on Lake Michigan for seven days. No groans from the kids because they understand the math behind the decision.


3) Find a job. I’m not talking about grabbing the local Dairy Queen gig (if I had that summer job I’d weigh about 750 pounds!). I’m talkin’ about helping junior through the process of fighting for a summer internship at a resume-building position. If they’re interested in engineering, try to find opportunities with a large local company. If law or medicine, apply at  the hospital, a law firm, or the local doctor’s office.

There’s a ton that junior learns while creating a resume, dressing appropriately and speaking well. The training involved in competing for these positions is a good primer in adult life skills.

Why I like it: By working in a professional environment, high school kids get a first hand look at how business works. Studies have shown that people who work in “real jobs” before college are more likely to do well in the classroom because they know how their learning might apply in the real world.

4) Scholarship hunt. Finding money for college is a full time job. The internet is brimming with opportunities for money, but you have to know who to ask and what scholarships to pursue. Most high schoolers only scratch the surface when it comes to searching for scholarships.

Instead of one-offing each opportunity, we found quickly that many of the scholarship opportunities were similar. My kids could write a couple of basic essays and then modify them to fit each particular offer. Most needed references from teachers and community members. We didn’t just learn about scholarship, we learned about creating systems to efficiently attack more quickly.

Why I like it: By formulating essays and asking for letters of reference, kids learn about the importance of written and verbal communication. They also realize that “going it alone” isn’t usually a good idea. It makes sense to find some powerful friends to help you….AND my kids were surprised that most powerful people want to help.

5) Board games. I’m back with more board games to teach the family about money. This time the games are downright fun for adults. Games such as Acquire can teach simple mergers and acquisitions. Power Grid is a modern-day version of monopoly involving power companies. And, in this year when the politics of the nation are up for grabs, 1960: The Making of a President is a good primer on the campaign process while also serving as a fun way to learn some history.

Why I like it: Board games are a great way to spend time with your kids. Instead of arguing or fighting about curfews and money, you’ll enjoying each other’s company over a communal activity.

How do you teach high school kids about money? Let’s have some more ideas in the comments below!


Photo Credit: Reading: NannySnowflake; Internship: ChesCrowell

5 Summer Activities to Create Money Savvy Kids: Upper Elementary to Middle School

Looking for educational activities for younger kids? Check last week’s installment: 5 Educational Summer Activities for Kids – Early Elementary.

I mentioned before that I have a love/hate relationship with summer.

To keep my twins from just attacking the XBox every day, I designed a bunch of fun summer activities, many that taught important life lessons. Let’s tackle those games I used when they were from third grade till about 6th or 7th grade.


Steal These Ideas!

If you have kids between the ages of 9 and 14, and wonder how you’ll keep the family entertained all summer, here’s a well-used list of activities that I can personally endorse…because we did them all.

Next week we’ll move into the High School years.


Grocery List


1) Grocery Store – Good news parents: if you plan correctly, the grocery store game only gets better as kids get older. At this age we had a couple of games. First we planned the trip to the store. Not only did they help me find valuable coupons, but they also searched online for deals on items we knew we’d need. This wasn’t just educational, it actually saved me time and money. At the store, each child had a personal list of items to find. After a few weeks we knew the store like the back of our hand and could get in and out in no time. The best news? They were so excited about the cash register and whether we made the budget or not that the “can I have one of these?” moments went out the window.

Why I Like It: At 17 I feel like my kids are already becoming savvy shoppers. They hunt for deals and are willing to compare costs before making a purchase.


2) Open a Savings Account – I’ll admit that we were late to the game here. We should have started this at 10 years old but didn’t get there until much later. My mistake. By taking kids into the bank and getting them acquainted with how it works, my kids already enjoy the banking experience. We compared different savings account options (even though they only had money at the time for the basic savings).

We talked about the difference between savings and checking, and decided together to forego the ATM card. The bank was great about this. I think so few kids are interested that they really enjoyed the fact that my kids seemed interested. We took a bank tour and they spent time answering all of my twin’s questions.

Why I Like It: I would have liked it better if I’d done this task at 10 years old with them (earlier ages, in my opinion, have limited “educational” returns). My kids both realize now how valuable a bank account is and how dangerous an ATM card can be. I think they’re getting close to ready for college and accounts on their own. At the very least, they’ll feel comfortable with the bank when they go to open their own account.


3) Start a Business – Lemonade stand. Carnival. EBay products. Dog sitting. Baby sitting. Heck, even blogging. Opening a business can be a rewarding experience, but not if you just hand junior a bunch of stuff and tell her to go sell it. If she keeps all of the proceeds, I think you’ve done her a disservice. Instead, create an overall plan for the business. Talk about an advertising campaign. Look at the cost of goods. Help them buy the product (via a loan from you) and then talk about their mark up. When they make money, they have to return the money they borrowed from you before making money. We had many little businesses along the way, and ran them this way each time.

Why I Like It: You’re teaching so many skills with this activity I can’t even begin here. Marketing (persuasive writing), technology, math, economics, are only a few of the skills kids will pick up while trying to learn to sell a product.


4) Board Games – Last week I mentioned what a game geek I am. Board games can teach kids so many money skills. An older game, Payday, is one of my favorites for financial lessons. You get paid once a month, pay bills and try to take advantage of opportunities (deals) when they arise. Buy insurance to guard against health and auto issues. On that note, another bad game but great teacher of financial lessons is Life. Have children, go to school (or not), buy insurance (or not), move up the career ladder. Sure, the game is very luck dependent, but it’s fun to move around the board and see just how many kids you can fit in that car (until you have to feed them….).

By age 12 kids will be able to grasp games that are better simulations, such as Agricola, Power Grid and Puerto Rico.They may not teach a child a ton about money today, but they do give kids a leg up on analytical skills and grabbing opportunities.

Why I Like It: Playing board games is a great way to teach lessons while playing as a family. I ‘m glad my kids like to play games. We generally aren’t competitive and have a few laughs together that I think we’ll all remember forever. (IF you want to purchase games listed AND help support the blog, you can use the Amazon links above to make your purchase. Thanks!)


5) Hold a Stock Tracking Competition – Step one of owning stocks is gaining a basic understanding about how the stock market works. Don’t think you know how it works well and worried you won’t be able to teach them? Learn together! Make a list of companies you admire. Research whether they’re public or not (and have stock that you can track). Give yourself an imaginary sum of money and invest!

We’d have a summer-long competition. The winner’s prize? They picked what we were having for dinner one night and we bought ice cream to celebrate.

Why I Like It: To effectively teach anything you have to brush up on skills yourself. I found that because I was teaching my kids, I paid better attention to my own portfolio.


What are your favorite activities with older children? Did you start any businesses at that age? Share in the comments!


Photo: Grocery List: MStewartPhotography; Lemonade Stand: EvinDC

5 Educational Summer Activities For Kids – Early Elementary

I have a love/hate relationship with summer.

Without any direction, my kids have one thought: XBox. It takes a ton of energy to continually point them to worthwhile summer activities when they aren’t at work or sports practices (even when I take away the XBox).

I love spending time with my children during the summer,

…but my professional goals get chucked out the window when they’re home.

I avoid frustration by realizing that my kids won’t be here forever. This helps me realize again that I want to spend every minute possible doing summer activities with them. They’re already past the “dad’s cool” age (I’m not sure we spent much time in that stage….sigh), so I’ve decided that educational fun is best. Why not have a good time and learn something at the same time?

I can’t believe that in 14 months I’m going to lose them to college.  After that, who knows where the wind will take them?


My Experience Is Your Gain


If you have kids under age 10 and wonder how you’ll keep the family entertained all summer, here’s a well-used list of educational activities that I can personally endorse…because we did them all.

This week we’ll tackle Early Elementary years (I’ve blocked out everything before that). Next week we’ll hurdle Late Elementary, then we’ll move into the Middle and High School years.  I’ve noted whether each educational activity is an indoor game or outdoor game to help you find what you’re looking for.

Comparison Shopping


1) Grocery Store – (indoor games) I can’t keep up the “keep your hands off that”, “no, we can’t get it,” “Put that back!” game for very long. You can call this game “self preservation.”

First, clip coupons. Give them the scissors to cut out the ones that you want. Have them help you organize them in a box. Then, make the list together.

At the store, make it a scavenger hunt. As you approach aisles with coupon items, tell them that you’re getting close to treasure. It’s not only one of our favorite educational summer activities, but a good one for all year round.

Why I Like It: A trip that can be a drudge becomes fun for the kids and bearable for you. Plus, I actually begin seriously looking for grocery deals that might become more “treasure.”


2) Count Change – (indoor games) Each day we’d come home and empty pockets into a jar in front of the piggy bank sitting on top of a piece of paper. Here’s what we’d do then:

  • First, talk about the different denominations. It’s a mystery to a 5 year old why a dime is worth double the value of a nickel when it’s half as small. Mind bender.
  • Second, track the years of the coins. For fun one day we started looking at the years on the coins. With newer quarters we started collecting states.
  • Finally, we’d track the amount of money that went into the piggy bank on paper. Initially they’d watch me do the math. Later, as they improved, they’d do some or all of the math.

Why I Like It: Besides being a coin geek, my kids realized that change is valuable and they learned some simple math skills. They’re still great at math!


Film School


3) Insurance Video – (indoor games) Your homeowners’ insurance policy (hopefully) allows you replacement value of all the items inside (with the exception of high-dollar assets, which should be separately insured). The problem? You have to remember what you owned.

So, I pretended we were making a movie. We dressed in costumes (by we, I mean “they”…I’m a geeky dad, but the costume thing is beyond me). We created some silly plot line where they had to open drawers as I peered inside. That took almost three days to make and we had a blast.

Why I Like It: You’re completing a task hardly anyone accomplishes and entertaining the kids at the same time. You’re a ninja.


4) Board Games – (indoor games) You may not know what a game geek I am. I started playing board games in 8th grade when my family got rid of the television (my grades went through the roof AND we had family game nights all the time…and still do).

Monopoly Jr. is an awesome game to teach young kids about money. My kids had their breakthrough (finally understanding the difference between a bill with a $1 on it and another with a $5 on it) while making change in this game. Different than Monopoly (which I can’t stand), the game is short and has a theme more fitting young kids: you’re buying rides at an amusement park.

Why I Like It: The game is widely available AND fun for everyone involved…even dad. (IF you want to purchase the game AND help support the blog, you can use this Amazon link to make your purchase. Thanks!)


5) Charity Drive – (Indoor games / Outdoor games)What’s more fun than cleaning the garage? Cleaning the garage with your kids and giving stuff to charity. This one is last because it’s a little like herding goldfish….but we got it done. Load up unwanted items and head to your favorite charitable institution.

Once I explained what we were doing, my kids decided to donate some toys they didn’t use anymore.

Why I Like It: It’s important for me to teach my kids that we live in a community and not everyone is as fortunate as our family. I also appreciate the tax deduction!


What are your favorite summer activities with children? Or do you remember a favorite from when you were a child? Share in the comments!


Photo Credits: Grocery: @ Flickr; Man and Camera: puukibeach @ Flickr)

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