Children like handling money. The younger ones usually show a preference for coins. They like to touch, taste, and jingle shiny coins. Coins can keep a child occupied for hours as they hide them, pretend to spend them, and trade them. As children develop, they are introduced to paper money. The higher value of the dollar bills, and its spending power, move the child’s feelings about coins to second place. At this stage, the child is learning that the coins have a lesser value. More coins than paper bills are needed to buy things. The paper money is better and more powerful.
Then we make a huge leap to the use of electronic money. The plastic debit and credit cards practically renders money invisible. Our money becomes digital (so to speak), and this removes us from the experience of handling coin and paper currency. As our sensory and cognitive associations with dollars and cents becomes more distant, so does our child-like emotional attachment. Children often think that cash machines and using credit cards are the equivalent of getting “free money.” Currency is not seen leaving the wallet, and children don’t equate using plastic with money. They only see that we put a card in the ATM and money comes out. Some adults have learned the hard way how easy it is to get in debt by shopping with plastic. Plastic purchases are painless – until the bill comes at the end of the month. If the dollars were seen leaving wallet in real time as the cash fund dwindling to a “zero balance,” we might be more mindful of our purchases.
Children can benefit from observing the use of physical money. They will learn that money is limited. Once it has been spent, it is gone until more money becomes available. The cycle of money is to use and replenish it. Better yet to make some, use some, save some. Knowledge of the money cycle is empowering to children. They already have an emotional connection to money, but they need to be mindful of how it works. We can help them learn to handle money in all of its forms wisely by keeping currency in our wallets. Children will observe us using currency, not just the plastic stuff. Before your next shopping trip with the children, stop and consider what’s in your wallet.
Candi Sparks is the author of Can I Have Some Money? a children’s money book series available on Amazon.com, at Barnes and Noble, and other retailers. She is on FaceBook and Twitter (Candi Sparks, author), and her website is http://www.can-I-have-some-money.com.