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Kids & Money – Learning Through Board Games

Gail Johnson writes about a fun and interactive way to teach your kids about the value of money. Originally posted on July 29, 2013 on Yahoo Canada Finance.

Board games a great tool to teach kids money basics

There was a bit of an uproar recently when the Wall Street Journal erroneously reported that the makers of Monopoly had decided to pull the jail spaces on the board game’s most recent version in an effort to woo and retain today’s overscheduled kids.

The theory was that without the jail space, the game would move faster, a key consideration given that young’uns just don’t have time for long, drawn-out “play”. It turns out that it was all a terrible misunderstanding, and in fact you can still go to the slammer while playing the original Monopoly as well as Monopoly Empire, in which players buy brands instead of real estate.

Despite it being one of the most popular games of all time, Monopoly never did it for me as a kid, and I’ve never played it with my own two children. In it, players buy and trade properties and collect rent from opponents, with the ultimate goal of driving them into bankruptcy. It’s hardly a feel-good distraction.

Derk Solko, who cofounded, described it this way in Wired magazine: “Monopoly has you grinding your opponents into dust. It’s a very negative experience. It’s all about cackling when your opponent lands on your space and you get to take all their money. Monopoly, in fact, is a classic example of what economists call a zero-sum game. For me to gain $100, you have to lose $100. For me to win, you have to be bankrupt. Gouging and exploiting may be perfect for humiliating your siblings, but they’re not so great for relaxing with friends.”


For my money, the Game of Life is where it’s at when you want to introduce young kids to some very basic financial concepts through a good ol’ fashioned board game.

I know there are countless counting, budgeting, saving and other educational money-related tools and games online that have a ton of research behind them and are geared specifically to children. Life is definitely not that, but I still love this this Hasbro classic, which first rolled out in 1860 when it was called the Checkered Game of Life. In fact, it represents been the best $24.99 I’ve spent all summer.

My six-year-old loves it and will happily play for hours. He’s learning math (If I have $100,000 but owe $40,000 in taxes, how much do I get back?). He’s discovered that you don’t just “get” a starter home; you have to in fact pay for one. He doesn’t like being sued or losing his job. And when it comes to the Spin to Win spot, where you bet a certain sum of money and stand to win back 10 times that amount or lose it all, he would rather take a pass altogether.

“Board games such as Life are a great way to teach your kids some real life money lessons while also having fun as a family,” says financial-literacy consultant Robin Taub, a chartered professional accountant and author of A Parent’s Guide to Raising Money-Smart Kids. “The game simulates your journey through life from college to retirement, including financial decisions you will face along the way as you navigate career, marriage, and possibly children.”

Other financial experts say board games can help parents teach their kids about money, even though Life can only be taken so seriously.

“I think anything that teaches our young people about life and about money is a wonderful tool,” says Margaret Johnson, president of Solutions Credit Counselling. “I would, however, prefer to see a board game or a money teacher that is more realistic. If you make the wrong choices or if you gamble your future away, the reality is you and your family could live on the street for the rest of your lives.

“Fast-tracking trying to get money usually does not work,” she adds. “Slow and steady is the way. Education is the key.”

Jeffrey Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, Inc. , agrees.

“What kid doesn’t want to race their little toy car, filled with a family of blue and pink pegs, towards the ultimate goal of a huge mansion, piles of money and a lush retirement? Is it very realistic? Probably not, but the Game of Life is an excellent way to teach our kids that the choices we make early on can shape our financial future,” Schwartz says. “On a most basic level board games like Life and Monopoly give kids hands-on experience with counting play money and making change. Life takes this a step further by introducing them to concepts of insurance, bank loans, savings and investing.

“As parents, it can be difficult to find ways to teach our kids about money,” he adds. “The true value in board games like Life is the opportunities they provide parents to start discussions about money with their kids.”

[end of article]


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