There’s so much talk about teaching kids about money. When do you start? How do you start? What’s saying too much versus saying too little? I can’t claim that I have that entirely figured out. Heck, I can’t claim that I have anything about parenting entirely figured out. But I do know that our toddler does already have a fairly firm grasp of the value of a dollar.
Easy. Ice cream!
Every single time that we make the trek to IKEA, HP gets an ice cream cone. At the IKEA closest to our home, an ice cream cone costs exactly one dollar. Therefore, in HP’s mind, the value of a dollar is precisely that: An ice cream cone.
All of this ice cream eating, it turns out, might be more of a money lesson than it seems. (And the money lesson isn’t that dental insurance is expensive! That’s another post for another day!)
It’s One Quarter…No Four!
Of course, our toddler has no real concept of money. But he does know that he can throw pennies in fountains and that Mama always looks for a quarter before grocery shopping (hey, Aldi, hey!).
He also knows that a dollar is made up of four quarters.
That doesn’t mean that I expect the kid to be counting back my change anytime soon, but he is slowly and surely starting to understand that money is more than just a piece of paper (OK, fine a piece of linen and cotton).
The first time he held up a dollar, he called it a quarter. Time after time, we hold up a dollar bill and talk through the idea that the dollar means four quarters. Even if you can’t really see them.
“It’s ‘retend!” Close enough.
The Value of a Dollar
As gross as our currency is, we’re big on letting HP hold money. At the grocery store, he puts my credit card in the card reader. He still squeals with delight over this. One weekend, it was just too delightful and my credit card is now creased thanks to his enthusiasm. (Apologies to the fine folks at Discover.)
But we want him to do more than swipe. We want him to actually understand the weight and purpose of money. That’s why–germs be darned–we let him hold the paper dollar.
It’s a bit of a gamble since paper money is not indestructible, but the dollar’s already earmarked for him. It wouldn’t be a huge financial loss if he ripped it. (It would be
a meltdown a teachable moment, though.)
We do coach him by saying things like:
- “If you rip it, no ice cream.”
- “The worker can only take it if it’s in one piece.”
- “We only have one. Don’t lose it.”
So far, so good.
RELATED POST: Why We Take Our Toddler Grocery Shopping Every Week
More Than Money Lessons
When I was pregnant, one of my friends took me out to lunch. His not-yet-Kindergartner tagged along. We were standing in line waiting to order, and I watched this kiddo head straight up to the counter, place his request, say thank you, and step to the side while his dad finished up ordering.
The worker and I were equally stunned.
When we sat down with our food, I begged my friend to tell me everything. He laughed it off by saying, “I have four kids. Do you think I can remember all of their orders?” Of course, it was so much more than a joke.
That moment stuck with me.
When I push our cart up to the register at IKEA, the sales associates look at me. I smile and point to HP, who is always excitedly clutching his dollar. Even when he hesitates to speak, I fight my instinct to place his order for him. I know he knows what to say because we rehearse it over and over again in line (and prior as we wind our way through the labyrinth of a store and on the drive over).
Our last visit went like this:
IKEA worker: Hi, what can I get for you?
Me: Hi! (gesturing to son in cart holding dollar)
HP: (long pause)
Me: (smiling and hoping for patience from all parties)
HP: Ice kem, pweze.
IKEA worker: Alright, little dude. You got it!
HP: (hands over dollar) Tank you! Tank you! Mama, I said tank you!
Do I get funny looks for letting my toddler eat ice cream in the dead of winter? Absolutely. But those looks are worth enduring to see the sheer delight of the people who work at IKEA. Never mind the absolute joy that radiates from HP when he finally clutches his prized cone.
What really warms my heart is that our son seems to truly understand that money has significance and so do the people we interact with. Watching him to take the time to say please and thank you is such a powerful reminder for me to always do the same.
Final Thoughts On Ice Cream & The Value of a Dollar
I don’t know all the money lessons we’ll try to teach our son. I’m sure some will flop and some will fail. But I hope that by making money a part of our lives and our conversations, he will take note of it. Ultimately, I want him to know that money is important because it is a necessary tool. With it, you can do a lot of good and live a life you want.
And you can enjoy a whole lot of ice cream. (Hey, it’s called values-based spending!)
So Tell Me…Do you have any money memories from your childhood? Are you trying to teach money lessons to any young people in your life?
A Black Penny
It’s at times like this I envy the dollar note. The lowest denomination we have here in the UK in terms of ‘paper’ money is £5….That’s a lotta, lotta ice cream.
I think my kid can sniff out money and wealth? Always seems to ignore my loyalty cards and go for the wealth…So far we’re just working on ‘Please don’t throw Mummy’s cash and debit cards out of her purse/around the house/out of your pram/behind the radiator.’ The basics, right?
Also, to further compound the fact that my own child has no idea of the significance of money – I caught them in my purse (wallet?) the other day and they were showering themselves in the £5 and £10 notes in there, like confetti.
It was like watching the most wholesome rap video unfold.
Also, that excitement at ordering ‘Ice kem,’…urgh, why so adorable?
We now have teens and although we have been good at stepping back and letting them order at restaurants, ask questions or directions themselves and basically navigate through life, I did realize that money wasn’t something I let them have control of.
I mean, their allowances goes into their accounts automatically. They are both really good savers with birthday gifts and the cash they are given, but they haven’t had full control.
This past Christmas I told them they were to buy gifts for the family using their own money. I remembered how proud I was when I bought my mom a little vase the first gift I ever paid for myself. I was much younger than my kids and wondered if it was too late to instill that sense of excitement, pride and value.
So I dropped them each off at the mall, no budgets in tow (I tried but they both said if I was making them use THEIR money, I couldn’t dictate how much they spent – fair comment)
Both kids did awesome. They didn’t overspend, they bought really thoughtful gifts for each of us and each other, plus on Christmas day, those were the first gifts they wanted opened.
There was a LOT of value in that lesson. 🙂
We’ve spent a good bit of time and energy teaching our daughter about money and what it is (and more importantly, what it is not). When she was 14 or so we opened up an account at our bank (connected to ours) and got her a debit card. Her allowance ($1 per year/week – now $17/week) is automatically deposited. We also give her a clothes budget of a few hundred dollars a year, divided in two pieces coinciding with the start of a new semester. So far, she’s managed it all pretty well.
I did a post on the efforts we have made a few weeks ago. Take a gander if you have time.
“And you can enjoy a whole lot of ice cream. (Hey, it’s called values-based spending!)”
For some individuals, skydiving can be very addictive. I have known more than one skydiver who measured every potential expenditure by equating the price to potential number of skydives (plane rides to altitude). “Nah, man, I don’t want to buy that! That’s 4 skydives!” Whatever makes it tangible…
Keep teaching HP those valuable skills!
I’m 67 I stayed with Nana &Grampa a lot when I was little . We’d walk to the Grocery store pulling his little folding cart. Whenever he gave me a coin he’d always say Don’t Spend it all in one place. In Summer I’d often spend it on Ice Cream . Some of the best memories of my life.
Oh, I love comments that grandparents make like that. “Don’t spend it all in one place” – it’s a joke AND a life lesson. Grandparents are magical. Thanks for sharing, Linne!
He &Nana were both born in 1886 in Wimbledon England.
He carried bills in a billfold with I D &pix. Coins in a little coin purse you squeeze to open .
We had some Good Fights when I got older & learned to fire the British Razor Sharp Sarcasm back. But when I was little it was milder. Breakfast was a soft boiled egg with buttered toast cut in fingers & cuppa tea .
You’re gonna love this or hate it,maybe both. He was a Major Gardener. Very British . We drive to the country for Sunday Picnics. A brown paper grocery bag &His Trowel were next to picnic basket. If we saw any ?
from Cows or Horses, it went ri into the bag . Then into the garden. Veggies,Fruit, Flowers,
Had to have Roses.
As to Ikea I only know they exist . Maybe Mc Ds or BK has $1 cones. Maybe Chief Cat doesn’t like Fast Food. Maybe you don’t either . I’m Jonesin for KFC Extra Crispy,Mashed Taters &Gravy ,Coleslaw ,2 Buttered biscuits & Large Cocoa that I’d pour in an Insulated Mug. No ride. Sigh.
Value of a dollar?? How about you dont shop at IKEA?? Shop at a place where your dollar goes further..
Where else would you like my toddler to purchase his soft serve ice cream, Chief Cat?
I have a teenager and a nine year old they are learning how to make their own money go farther my son is learning to thrift or shop clearance to really look for the best deal they have seen the value of shopping clearance or checking it first and considering now if they will use what they buy. Right now given our current position they are learning how to reuse or repurpose things as well
Ohh ice cream, I just had some at our neighborhood ice cream shop. Yes the joys of living in California where their are no winters. Now I want to eat some again…MmmM!! Lol!!
My earliest money memories was a big empty apple juice jar where my parents put change in there when they came home from work. That jar would fill up within a month and was very useful when we wanted to buy something like snacks or baseball cards. It showed that saving even coins will come in handy because you will need them.
I’m trying to provide money lessons to TwC by telling about how we’re buying the groceries when we check out. It’s kind of tough when I pay by credit card but when I have cash in hand, I’ll tell him that if want to get the items in the shopping cart I will have to give the worker money. He gets the idea of exchanging goods for money but doesn’t fully understand how I got the money. So that’s something I have to talk to him more about…the concept of working for money.
I’m an always single so no kids to teach but I love to watch them when I go out. Not in a creepy way . When I was younger &could go on vacation,seeing kids at Parks…a iittle kid seeing Mickey
Mouse for the 1st time. Some scared , most Thrilled. Yeah,sorry I missed that.
Certainly know it’s not all nice . But watching their minds &hearts grow is lovely . &I pick up coins too. See a Penny Pick it up &all the day you have good luck.