Your kids might not be in the classroom during the summer, but that doesn’t mean they can’t continue to learn. The summer months are a great time to teach your children things they might not learn through standard school curriculum—practical life skills like good financial practices, what financial health looks like, and how money works.
Everyone is at a different place in their financial journey. Maybe you’ve never balanced a checkbook, made a budget, or had the energy to think about saving money. That’s ok. The important thing here is not explaining it perfectly or being able to teach a master class in finance. The important thing is to learn! This article is just a basic starting point, and if you want to learn more, we have an entire Money Management section devoted to learning how to manage money.
Learning about money with kids can help them to achieve financial security and stability later in life. In fact, children with basic financial training were found to have better average credit scores and lower debt delinquency rates as young adults than those who had no financial education whatsoever. Here we’ll explore five summer activities you can do with your kids to teach them the essentials of budgeting, saving, and spending, while also having fun.
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1. Open a Lemonade Stand
Nothing says summer quite like a lemonade stand. While this classic summer kids’ activity is a wonderful way to pass the time—and potentially reconnect with your own childhood—it’s also a fantastic way to teach your children the basics of money management, including income, expenses, capital investment, profit, and budgeting.
In fact, a lemonade stand can provide so many valuable teachable moments about finances that the National Financial Educators Council created an entire lesson plan that you can use to guide your children through the whole process of opening their first lemonade stand, from developing a business plan to tracking their profits. Not only can you have fun with your little ones while earning some money, but they’ll learn valuable lessons about finances, entrepreneurial skills, responsibility, and teamwork.
2. Give Them a Summer Job
No matter how old your kids are, the combination of free time and boredom during the summer can be difficult to manage. If they’re open to it, summer might be the perfect time to give them more responsibility and to teach them how jobs work!
Depending on the age of your children, you could give them a variety of “jobs” in return for compensation. These could include tasks like sweeping the kitchen, cleaning their room, taking out the trash or mowing the yard once a week—whatever you find makes sense in your household. It’s up to you how you structure their pay, whether it be by hour or by task.
In any amount, earned money can jumpstart conversations about how to save, what to save up for, how to spend their cash wisely, and how they want to use money in the future. They will also learn the basics of balancing “work” and life.
3. Budget for the Ice Cream Truck
Whether your kids earn money from opening their own (very) small business, you choose to provide them with an allowance, or you pay them for little jobs completed around the house, the biggest takeaway might be budgeting basics.
One fun way to teach this lesson is to work with your child to save for a specific goal—for instance, buying their favorite treat the next time the ice cream truck drives by. If there’s an ice cream cone they love that costs $5, but they only earn $1 a week through their allowance or by doing chores, help them calculate how long it will take to have enough saved to purchase the item. Once they realize that $5 takes five weeks to earn, it can help them understand other important aspects of money management, like prioritizing savings, delaying gratification, and focusing on free or low-cost ways to have fun.
A big lesson from budgeting isn’t so much how you spend, but how you can avoid spending. For instance—if a tub of ice cream costs $2.95, they can have ice cream two weeks sooner, they’ll have more of it, and it will last longer. And while you’re exploring the concept of conscious frugality with your kids, you might just find some new tricks of your own!
4. Leverage Books and Story Time
Reading of any kind has huge benefits, including supporting cognitive development, improving their language skills, and encouraging imagination and creativity.
But there’s another opportunity here as well: it’s yet another way to teach your kids about money. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CPFB) offers a curated list of financial education books broken down by age, along with parent reading guides to help you incorporate conversations about money into your everyday life.
5. Go Grocery Shopping Together
Everyone usually has a little more free time in the summer, so why not put it to good use by turning your weekly grocery trip into a teaching moment for your children? It might seem like a chore to you, but kids can learn a lot about money from a simple visit to your local H-E-B.
Before you head out, set a budget for this particular trip and make a grocery shopping list together. Review what’s in your kitchen and fridge, explaining why it’s important to determine what you need versus what you want before you go to the store. This step can help kids understand that money isn’t limitless and that it’s important to be conscious of your grocery list so you can stick to a budget.
Once you’re at the store, talk to your kids about how you make decisions about what to purchase, explaining the difference between expensive and affordable. If they’re old enough, you can discuss how you comparison shop for the best price by using coupons or looking at things like the unit cost to save money. You can also point out things like how the layout of the store itself is designed to encourage impulse spending (the candy at the cash register is there for a reason!).
At the end of your trip, let your child pay for your family’s purchases in cash. This can help them see how money works in real life as they count out the dollars and cents themselves.
Take Advantage of Your Time Together
The summer is for relaxing and spending time with family, but it can also be a time for learning and growth. It might seem boring or kind of stiff to teach your kids about money—but it is a critical step in their personal journeys toward adulthood.
By taking advantage of the slower pace of life in the summer months to reinforce your child’s financial understanding, you can prepare them for a more secure and stable future.