A version of this article originally appeared on Learnvest.com.
It’s never too early to start teaching children the ABC’s of money. After all, parents seem to be doling it out—big-time.
A survey by the American Institute of CPAs found that the average allowance of $780 a year provides kids with enough money to buy an Apple iPad and three Kindles—with money to spare for even more spending, seeing as only 1 percent of parents say their children save any of their allowance.
Effective money management hinges on adopting the right habits—and it’s important for parents to instill good ones at a young age. Of course, knowing not only when to begin teaching money smarts to kids but also where and how can be a challenge.
That’s why we rounded up a few of our favorite educational tools that are tailor-made for instilling in children of all ages lessons about saving, money management, and even entrepreneurship. Then we asked Darrah Brustein, author of Money-Making Sunny: Finance Whiz Kids, to weigh in on why they’re worth the investment.
Skills it teaches: saving.
This smart piggybank, which lights up in celebration every time a deposit is made, connects to a smartphone app that totals the change from afar—engaging young children in the seemingly boring topic of saving through positive reinforcement.
What the expert thinks: It’s also a great way to encourage setting and tracking financial goals, Brustein says. Let your little one pop in the coins, and watch the numbers add up!
Cost: $8 per month.
Skills it teaches: counting and other basic math.
This award-winning site can familiarize children as young as 2 with such simple math concepts as counting and the principles of “more” and “less” through games, puzzles, and other tools—ultimately setting the stage for someday teaching multiplication, algebra, and geometry.
What the expert thinks: The site “is a great example of ‘edu-tainment’ at work,” Brustein says. “It offers a wide variety of lessons, but the math skills, in particular, will be great building blocks for kids as they learn about different financial concepts.”
Elementary School Tools
Skills it teaches: entrepreneurship and business basics.
Kids 7 and older will love running their own virtual dinosaur parks and acting on such entrepreneurial decisions as “What if fewer visitors came to the park?” and “How much popcorn inventory should I buy?” They’ll also consider other fundamentals of operating a business—from customer service to keeping the animals healthy—while also learning about budgeting and the correlation between money and responsibility.
What the expert thinks: “Any time you can combine gaming and learning, you have a chance of keeping a child’s attention,” Brustein says. “This is a great tool for kids who have an entrepreneurial spirit!”
Skills it teaches: multiplication and percentages.
Sign up for this daily e-mail to receive a math problem in your inbox every night—and get your kid interested in the foundations of money math. Clever lessons featuring space suits, monkey bars, or snowy owls will capture your child’s attention, teaching skills like multiplication and percentages.
What the expert thinks: ”Bedtime Math does a great job of offering multiple ways to engage kids, whether it’s with their app, printable coloring pages, videos, party ideas, or stickers,” Brustein says.