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Teaching Your Child about Money through Play and Positive Interaction

Updated on July 11, 2012


I’m the Cat in the Hat

And you want to know something funny?

We’re about to have fun

Learning all about money!


-from the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library

Young children learn through play. They learn about relationships and resolving conflicts. They learn about gender roles and explore occupational choices by playing house, school, doctor, nurse, fireman, cops and robbers, and so on. Children can pretend and imagine for hours on end, with or without the help of props, puppets, costumes and equipment. Engaging in play activities helps a child reduce anxiety, because the child in play is working hard at resolving subconscious conflicts through play.

Children also enjoy positive attention from their parents. There is nothing more rewarding than engaging in play with your child for thirty minutes each day; rewarding for you and your child because it reduces a child’s attention seeking behaviors and anxiety! The best way to reduce negative interactions with your child is to increase positive ones.

During play, it is important that the parent join with the child and allow the child to direct the play, as long as the child is playing safely and appropriately. If the child is not appropriate, an “if, then” statement can be made to instruct the child that “if you want to keep playing, then you’ll need to (correct the problem behavior).” If the problem behavior persists, and the child is not responding to correction, a parent can assert that playtime is over, and disengage from play. You can express your hope that tomorrow’s play time will be more fun. The natural consequence for bad play behavior is that no one wants to play with you!

While behavior is appropriate, the parent can use positive reflective statements to boost the child’s self esteem and self confidence, and establish a positive relationship bond. An example of a reflective statement would be, “You decided to play with the blocks instead of the cars.” Other active listening techniques can be used when the child responds. For example, the child might say, “I played with the cars yesterday.” An active listening response could include, “Oh, I see. Since you played cars yesterday, you want to play with the blocks today.” During this time, it is important that the child be allowed to take the lead, and that the parent refrain from criticism and correction (except as noted above regarding safety). Concerns can be addressed, if needed, outside of play time.

Introducing books and toys about money is one way to attract interest in the topic of money and to begin to explore some values related to money. It provides an opportunity for parents to consider their own knowledge and values related to money, too! Through play children can learn to manage money, make career choices, learn to control impulses, learn the relationship between work and money, solve money problems, manage money related anxiety, and develop interest and motivation to learn more about math, money, business, sales, customer service, finance, banking, marketing, management and accounting. Girls can explore alternatives to teaching and nursing as career choices. Boys can learn alternatives to fireman, policeman and professional athlete.

Children can learn about lifestyle balance through play; that while money play is fun, so is playing house and school and cars and sports! They can also learn that people have worth regardless of the career they choose or how much money they make. They can learn that it feels good to earn money from work, and that work is honorable.

They can learn that love and respect are free, and are valuable too. They can learn to value that when someone else works hard to own something, it’s not ok to take it or destroy it. They learn about property rights and protecting property. They learn that people and property are not the same, but both are worthy of respect. They learn about self respect when they are treated with respect, and are allowed to express themselves in play!

These are all themes that can emerge in play with a child! Children learn a lot from play. They learn a lot from parents too – more from what parents do than what they say. A parent who spends time in play with a child is teaching a child that they are worthy of attention and that their ideas are worthwhile as well.

There are merchandise selections throughout this hub that are intended as suggestions. Spending a lot of money, of course, isn’t necessary to show love, enjoy play, use imagination or spend quality time with your child. Play money can still be made with paper and pencil, and a lemonade stand can be just as much fun with an empty box or a table top. The library still has lots of free books, and there are plenty of children’s’ shows on TV.


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    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 7 years ago

      Thanks Vern. I like the empty purse analogy. I once was an empty purse and now I'm loaded! I could keep the same purse and show off how loaded I am, or I could get a bigger purse, experience some humility and learn some more! And, of course, I'll give some away - mostly to Uncle Sam! I'll give some to you if you want it Vern, but just enough to encourage you but not too much to enable you or disempower you....unless you want to be competitive and play whoever gets the most stuff wins. Either way I'll gladly take some of the stuff from your wallet if you're offering, but I would never take it without permission, and I'm not too proud to accept a gift. Thanks for playing, Vern. Your Dad really missed out. You're fun to play with!

      In play, it could come out that bridge builders get bigger pay checks and can buy more stuff than hamburger flippers, and that even though the check is smaller, it can be fun to flip burgers sometimes, and it's always good to have skills!

      Thanks for your comment Vern....and your loyal readership!

    • vrbmft profile image

      Vernon Bradley 7 years ago from Yucaipa, California

      Hi Kim,

      Sorry I have missed reading your very latest blogs. You know, I really like this hub and I want to say it is one of your best, not so much from a standpoint of style, etc, but in terms of topic. When we turn three years old, we are almost like an empty brief case or wallet or purse, waiting to be filled up with good information about growing up and becoming an adult, an adult who is confident and not afraid of the big ol' world. I love the descriptions of parent child play and the reflective listening. I hope lots of people read and DO. These years of play are so so so so important, and I wish someone would have engaged me in some of those games. I played a lot of things, fireman, engineer (we lived across from the RR tracks), of course doctor, priest, store with my toy cash register and play money. Unfortunately, I played a lot of these imitative games alone, except for Doctor!! Would have been cool to have had my Dad engaged. I consciously worked at it with my own son, wish I had done more and hope I get a second chance as a grandfather.

      We spend way too much time giving off all the negative messages about the future. "You'll see....ain't gonna be able to pay the rent flippin burgers....." No wonder no one wants to leave home!



    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 7 years ago

      Thanks Billy - I like that - keeping it real and in perspective. Thanks.

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 7 years ago

      Nice hub Kim - so important to keep it all real and in perspective when it comes to money

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 7 years ago

      Thanks Tony. I don't know what npetinent means but I'm guessing it's a compliment! Cat in the Hat wasn't my favorite, but I loved Green Eggs and Ham. Love and peace to you as well, Tony.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      I really enjoyed this very npetinent and well-written Hub. Thanks for the great ideas. I love the "Cat in the Hat"!

      Love and peace


    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 7 years ago

      Thank you gajanis. exactly. out with "do as i say, not as i do."

    • gajanis786 profile image

      gajanis786 7 years ago

      Very useful for parents....indeed children can learn better through examples by parents and parents can influence them as they are their best role models.Thanks.

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 7 years ago

      thanks ocbill. I just came from your site on treating acne with laser surgery! Interesting stuff.

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 7 years ago

      @HBM That's awesome..... and it would be a good hub topic! I'd love to hear more about that.

    • ocbill profile image

      ocbill 7 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

      good tips that I have to agree with. Thanks for sharing.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

      Good point. Playful positive interactions with our children makes them feel loved and valued, and it's a natural way of learning about any topic. As nurses, we were taught to use play as a tool to help children deal with the pain and stress of illness and hospitalizations.

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 7 years ago

      Thanks HBM. The play and positive interaction are the keys. The topic is secondary in my mind.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

      Cool ideas to help parents teach their children about money and careers through play.

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 7 years ago

      You make a good point dahoglund. There's a difference between knowledge and understanding. Knowing how to make a mortgage payment is different from understanding balloon payments, mortgage banking and foreclosure. I am amazed when I hear reports that someone thought the 2nd mortgage company was there to help them, and are suprised that they really want to be sure their money is secure!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      It is a good idea to get children involved in financial understanding since it seems most folks now have little understanding of how to handle money.

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 7 years ago

      thanks tony:)

    • profile image

      Tony DeLorger 7 years ago

      Good advice and good hub Kim.


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