Fun Money Sites & Games For Kids
July 21, 2009 2:25 AM   Subscribe

My 7 year old son has developed a passion for money. He enjoys collecting unusual coins and bills, spotting bargains at the grocery, playing 'store' and (yikes) making bets for cash. His favorite character is Mr. Crabs. Finance is not my specialty *snort* so any suggestions for age appropriate sites/activities that revolve around the wise use of filthy lucre will be appreciated.

My husband and I are both artsy, broke dopes when it comes to anything financial, so we're not exactly the go-to grownups when it comes to teaching a kid about commerce. I'm impressed by the kid's grasp of monetary value- he's a pretty critical consumer for a first grader- but he's also a bit of a gambler and a wheeler-dealer. I've overheard him making bets with his friends (25¢ heads, double or nothing tails, that sort of thing). Another mom recommended investing websites, but it seems the ones I'm finding are either geared toward older kids or their parents. A good investment game simple enough for a second grader would be right up his alley, if one exists.
I know there are plenty of financial wizard mefites out there; what inspired you when you were a sprout?
posted by maryh to Work & Money (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've overheard him making bets with his friends (25¢ heads, double or nothing tails, that sort of thing).

You sound kind of worried about this. I wouldn't be. That process of evaluating expected value is vitally important to business dealings.

In fact, why not encourage its study? I don't know of any in particular, but a gambling theory book right for his age level would be great. Maybe even just a learn-poker-odds book, or something, so long as it discusses a little of the math behind it.

Because frankly, it's about as risky to play the stock market as it is to play poker. Maybe riskier, if you're a solid poker player.
posted by Netzapper at 2:34 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had this book (or a very similar one) when I was in elementary school: Growing Money: A Complete Investing Guide for Kids — it says ages 9-12. It wasn't my favorite book, but I liked getting a sense of the grown-up world of money. This book was more fun and I remember it having some money-related pages: Math for Smarty Pants.
posted by dreamyshade at 2:55 AM on July 21, 2009

Best answer: Maybe he would enjoy a tour of the U.S. Mint?
posted by HFSH at 3:45 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

There's money boxes that are divided into sections, one for spending now, one for saving up for a treat, one for charity. He could do his bets out of the spend now, save up to invest in some shares, and maybe do some research on a charity he'd like to support (a 6yr old I know likes "sponsoring" endangered zoo animals with her spare change, another got her family to sponsor a kid in Kenya). The idea is that they learn not to blow all their money on just one thing, and how to make long-term decisions about it, and set some good habits up for later.
posted by harriet vane at 3:55 AM on July 21, 2009

Best answer: Get him some numismatic books and collection materials. On visits to your bank, get $20 worth of rolled pennies, or $50 worth of rolled nickels, dimes, or quarters for him to go through, looking for valuable coins, and re-roll. Your "cost" is only whatever change he removes from the sack for his collection, as you return the unselected coins to the bank.

Not all banks are coin-collector friendly about this, but many are, and most have high speed coin sorting and rolling machines. Ask about this at your branch, so that they recognize that you have a budding collector in your household.

For birthday and other presents, you can get him additional hobbyist things like proof sets, or specific coins of greater value he'd like to collect. It's a life long hobby for many people, and one that can even pay big financial dividends, or become a career, if he becomes good at it, too.
posted by paulsc at 4:38 AM on July 21, 2009

Best answer: I had a passbook savings account as a kid. Going to the bank to deposit money, seeing my balance grow (tiny amounts seemed substantial back then), and accumulating a little interest made me feel a bit grown-up.
posted by ignignokt at 4:51 AM on July 21, 2009

Best answer: Get him started on one of the tycoon games, like Dino Park Tycoon or Roller Coaster Tycoon.
posted by downing street memo at 5:38 AM on July 21, 2009

Best answer: Monopoly and PayDay are both money-focused boardgames, but require some willing friends to play them.

When I was in school, I think it was a government or civics class of some sort ( I didn't take it), simply started students with a certain amount of imaginary "money", and bought shares based on what the newspaper said that morning. The next day, the re-valued their account based on the previous day's closing prices, traded shares at that price, and then went on from there. It doesn't require a computer or book, but it does require watching the news to keep track of quarterly announcements, financial markets, sales and acquitisions, etc -- getting a kid interested in reading the newspaper / following the news isn't half bad, either.

With your help, it sounds like he could definitely enjoy collecting coin errors on eBay -- the price fluctuates wildly depending on the day, many are really, really cheap, and it requires some savvy to not get screwed. Both this and the investing game have that "gambling" aspect, but without as much negative stigma to it.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:47 AM on July 21, 2009

Numismatics can be a great way to get into history. Can you take him to a museum where there's a collection of Greek and Roman coins? There's usually some sort of sheet explaining the iconography on each coin, and you could look around the gallery for art made in the same period or art that shows the same image, and then follow up on the historical particulars at home.

Otherwise, sounds like he'll be great at math. Good for him.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:41 AM on July 21, 2009

Best answer: It's not a game, but he should definitely know how the magic of compound interest works.
posted by anderjen at 7:21 AM on July 21, 2009

Best answer: Go to your local antique store -- the shoddy looking one in the old rundown house. You'll find they have a cabinet filled with coins and stamps in a glass case, which will all be overpriced. Tucked behind those will be a box or three of the stuff nobody wants -- lower quality foreign coins, wheat pennies, buffalo nickels, stuff like that that is too common and/or beat up to bother pricing individually. Grab those, in bulk or rolls, get your kid a couple cheap (the cardboard uncovered kind, any good book store or hobby store carries them) coin folders to put them in, and let him spend hours digging through the lots and sorting them. A small price book helps, but maybe these days he'd be willing to look up what he finds online.

Cheap folders and "modern" coins might be fun for him also, but that burns out pretty quickly because it's very easy/quick to fill those folders to ~90% capacity. Digging through older stuff is much more of a treasure hunt, and it's really not all that expensive at all (particularly if you stick to U.S. pennies and nickels, which I recommend since they are of so little face value that kids don't get tempted to spend them).

I keep a few rolls of stray low-quality wheat pennies and some old cardboard folders around for whichever niece/nephew of mine gets interested in such things first. With 13 of 'em, odds are one will.
posted by Pufferish at 7:33 AM on July 21, 2009

Best answer: Do you live near one of the twelve Federal Reserve Banks? I have visited the money museum at the Chicago one and found it quite entertaining. Information about the history of money, what the Fed does, and how to spot counterfit bills.

Maybe see if the Money Bus is anywhere in your area?

Oh, and p.s. I have a good friend who was obsessed with money when he was little. His favorite cartoon character was Scrooge McDuck, and while swimming he would pretend he was diving through a vault of gold coins. He has turned out to be a (non-money obsessed) well-rounded person headed for government service. Kids have passing fancies, just use them to teach and you can't go wrong.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 8:26 AM on July 21, 2009

Head over to your local library and ask the children's librarian to help you find some suitable books for your kiddo. That's always our first stop when a new obsession crops up and I've never been disappointed.

Also, I'm about to return to the States from England and will probably have some loose change banging around. It won't be much - I'm trying to make sure I don't come back with too much (and I've already put aside the coins I'm saving for my kids) - but if you'd like, I can send it to your son. Just memail me if you're interested.
posted by cooker girl at 8:50 AM on July 21, 2009

Best answer: Wonderful!

Please, please, please encourage your son to explore his monetary passion more. And help him!

The best way I can imagine is for you to read the book Young Bucks. It teaches you how to teach your kids about money and entrepreneurship. It's a fun, fast read that will give you a wealth of information. It's like it was written for your situation.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 9:04 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm impressed by the kid's grasp of monetary value- he's a pretty critical consumer for a first grader- but he's also a bit of a gambler and a wheeler-dealer. I've overheard him making bets with his friends (25¢ heads, double or nothing tails, that sort of thing).

He sounds a lot like me when I was a kid. I learned to count money when I was around 3 or 4, I always liked playing store, tried to come up with ways to make money etc. I blame Scrooge McDuck.

You might want to encourage him to try selling something in real life, along the lines of a lemonade stand. It's almost as low-stakes as a pretend store, but it does teach good lessons about interacting with customers and whatnot. When I was a kid I tried making things and selling them to my friends at school a few times, and the only thing I wish I would have been told beforehand was to get the money up front.

Speaking of lemonade stands, I also liked the old school lemonade stand computer games when I was a kid. These days the equivalent to that would probably be those Tycoon games as mentioned above by downing street memo.

On the gambling side I agree with others that it probably won't be a problem. Although I guess some people would consider it inappropriate to teach kids to gamble, personally I would suggest teaching him to play Blackjack and Poker for play money (or chips). Once he learns the odds he should realize why it's not smart to lose your money to a casino. I learned 5-card draw when I was a kid and Hold 'Em later on, and like any good game I think Poker teaches some valuable skills like probability.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:12 AM on July 21, 2009

As I child I saved pennies. My dad and I would go to the bank and get papers to put them in rolls, and I had a little device that you would fill up and then slide the paper into. Fun parts about this were counting by twos to figure out how many dollars I had, getting extra pennies from all my relatives, who would save them for me, and looking for really old pennies, which we would keep.
posted by mai at 9:14 AM on July 21, 2009

Oh, I also had a savings account from about the age of five. I would read the balance statements each month. That's how I learned about compound interest. I saved part of my allowance and all the pennies I collected.
posted by mai at 9:16 AM on July 21, 2009

If your local financial institution has a young persons' savings accout (especially one with a passbook that can be updated), that can be a fun way to save and keep track of savings.
posted by Kurichina at 9:30 AM on July 21, 2009

In high school I babysat for a kid who spent the beginning part of his summer writing letters to each Foreign Embassy in the US asking for examples of their coinage and currency. He was probably 8 or 9. We had a big map and we'd cross off each country twice - once for sending the letter and once for when they returned his correspondence. I heard that once since he graduated high school he's backpacked through a good chunk of the countries that supplied his European, Middle Eastern, African and Asian coin collection.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:34 AM on July 21, 2009

Cash Flow for Kids boardgame. I haven't played the kids version, but the adult version teaches a lot about handling money.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 9:35 AM on July 21, 2009

He might get a kick out of Where's George, with it he can track a dollar bill he spends as it travels round the country.
posted by Iteki at 9:45 AM on July 21, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for all the great suggestions! I can't believe I didn't think of helping him open his own checking account; if there's one thing he loves as much as money, it's getting stuff in the mail. Perfect solution!
I'm not as worried about his "gambling" as I let on in the original question, but I would like to guide that interest in a more useful direction, if possible. I also really like burnmp3s suggestion to embrace the impulse by playing poker; I think it'd be the perfect game for him (and much less tedious than Monopoly for his Dad & me.)
posted by maryh at 9:46 AM on July 21, 2009

Adding to previous suggestions for a savings account, ING accounts show you how much interest you've earned this month. That total is updated frequently (daily I think).
posted by chndrcks at 11:04 AM on July 21, 2009

Best answer: It's a Habit is a good site for younger kids. The Moonjar site also has some nice resources, and encourages kids to think about a paradigm of "spending, saving and sharing", which is a model that makes a lot of sense. You might also want to help him set up a small loan through Kiva (where you can join the Metafilter group) and let him select an entrepeneur to invest with.
posted by judith at 2:51 PM on July 21, 2009

Lavamind makes a bunch of business simulation games. Big Fish Games has one of them. Which version is the better deal is left as an exercise for the 7 year old ;)
posted by juv3nal at 5:17 PM on July 21, 2009

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