If you’ve already got your kids working with money (good for you!), a big challenge is getting them to keep track of their funds on paper. Getting them to keep track of the money physically can be just as tough, however, and most parents need a few strategies for preventing the cash from accidentally disappearing.
- Get them a wallet or purse.
Most kids, if left to their own devices, will either shove money in a pocket or clutch it in their hands if they’re out and about. The first approach isn’t particularly great because the money often drops onto the floor as kids fish through the pockets for other treasures. Alternately, the money sometimes works its way out of the pocket on its own with the child’s movements, assuming the pocket has no zipper or button. If your kids hold their money in their hands, it’s very easy to drop it (especially coins), set it down and forget it or have it get tattered and torn. Not only that, but money isn’t particularly sanitary, so it can be best for kids to limit how much they physically handle it, especially if they haven’t kicked the thumb-sucking habit. Purses address all these issues, as they allow your child to wear their money, protect it and be hands free. Wallets offer good protection and hands-free carrying, too, keeping money clearly separated from other pocket items. The trick with wallets, though, is to find one with an attached keychain. This way, you can attach a lanyard and carabiner to the wallet and clip the other end to your child’s belt loop.
- Assign a specific spot for money counting
Young kids love to double check how much money they have, even if they’re not saving for anything in particular. They enjoy showing how high they can count, and they often like the sensations and sounds the bills and coins provide. Unfortunately, they’re not too discriminatory when it comes to when or where they’ll dump their piggy banks or jars for counting, and they sometimes will carry a few coins or bills off to other rooms to show others, ask questions or even do experiments and play. If you have one single place where you insist is the “counting area”, they’ll be less likely to wander with their money and lose track of it.
- Exchange coins for bills when possible.
Coins are easier for kids to drop than bills, and they don’t work particularly well with many wallets. They also are an issue because they are heavier than bills, increasing the odds that your child will set the cash down because they’re annoyed with or tired from carrying it around. Take your child to the bank or any department store where a coin sorter is available. They’ll enjoy putting their coins in the machine quite a bit. You can always let them keep just a few coins for candy, toy or vending machines.
- Adopt a “take what you need” approach.
When kids know they’re going to a store, they often want to grab all the spending money they have, because they’re not sure if they’ll find something they want to buy or what the price will be. This practice is risky because it puts all their cash in one basket—everything gets lost if the money is misplaced or stolen. Set a limit on the amount your child can take, counting out the amount together. Better yet, browse the store’s website with your child before your trip and make a list of what they want to buy, checking that they have enough funds for those items. This is a good method because it develops the positive habit of price checking and reduces impulse purchases.
Part of teaching kids to be responsible with money is giving them the opportunity to work with it physically. It’s common for children to see a few coins or bills go out the I’m-learning window as they develop good money-handling habits, but if you incorporate these tips, they’ll likely get those habits going faster with less loss. Regardless of which strategies you get going, just be consistent, and understand that every child will need slightly different levels of help based on their tendencies and cognitive level.