teaching my 3 year old the value of two dollars

August 21st, 2007

Teaching my 3 year old the value of two dollars

This past weekend, our family went to the local zoo for the afternoon. We are members of the zoo so our admission is already paid for, but things like rides and snacks cost extra. We go to the zoo quite often each summer, and usually, we don’t get any extras. But this trip I told my son we could have some kind of treat while we were there. He wanted french fries, his very favorite thing in the universe that he doesn’t get very often, and I agreed that french fries would be okay once we got to that part of the zoo (the furthest point from the entrance).

While walking through the African exhibit, my son was immediately drawn to the ice cream cart down the path. He got very excited and started saying “Ice cream, look mommy ice cream” and rushed over. I sat down with him next to the ice cream sign and explained he could choose to get ice cream, but if he did, there would be no french fries later. I showed him the two dollar bills and told him with these he could get ice cream, but once he did, they would be gone and we couldn’t use them to get french fries. He thought about it, I could almost see the wheels turning in his brain as he looked at the money and looked at the ice cream sign. He is not really good with the concept of “later” and I was pretty sure he would be getting some ice cream and we’d have to deal with the tantrum later when we got to the Australian exhibit where DQ was with the french fries and we didn’t get any.

But then, he turned around and said “Okay mommy bye bye come on!” and walked away. And that was that. Later that afternoon we stopped for french fries and after my son again debated ice cream vs french fries (it is DQ after all) we paid our $2 for french fries and sat down to enjoy them. And that was that. I don’t know how much of this he’ll retain and apply to the next time a choice with money needs to be made, but I was a pretty proud parent that day.


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14 Responses to “Teaching my 3 year old the value of two dollars”

  1. Good for both of you! I know my 4 year old would go straight for the ice cream and then want the fries later. My 9 year old would probably pocket the money though. Kids are funny.

  2. That is such a cool things you’re doing…he’ll learn it. It’s so important for him to know it’s not limitless…and even at his young age, he’s learning choices. :)

    Coupons – seriously, check out http://www.hotcouponworld.com . Those people are amazing – and many times, they will match up the deals for you. What more could you ask? :)

  3. That’s a really cool story. I will remember to use it on my son when he can talk. Right now he is still in the womb, so it might be too early.

  4. I wish more people would spend time teaching their kids the value of money as more often than not children get what they want. I totally respect your approach i know with our family that helping children to understand that there are consequences to any decision we make is essential and it gives them the best and most loving start in life.

  5. I do this with my son, who is almost 4. He is obsessed with books and trains, and while that’s all good, his habit of hitting me up for presents every time we go near a shop isn’t.

    I was raised in a household with very little money, and while my son won’t have those difficulties, I also don’t want him to think money solves everything or it appears magically every time you ask for it.

    To this end, my husband and I have started giving my son money to save in his money box when he’s a good helper around the house or behaves especially well. Every week we count the money and he tells me what he’s saving for. Usually it’s a Thomas train. But sometimes when he sees something he really wants at the shops he’ll ask for it and if he has enough money I tell him that he can have it, but it will mean he has to wait longer for the item he’s been saving for. He then decides what to do.

    So far this is working a treat. He has made his own decisions about what he REALLY wants and we’ve never had a tantrum from him later changing his mind. And this kid can throw a tantrum with the best of them! It’s also helped cement what good behavior is, and he’s even started helping me hang out the washing.

    I think teaching our kids about money is one of the most important things we can do for them. It may have been a drag growing up poor, but I wouldn’t give back my money sense and budgeting skills for anything.


  6. Good for you, teaching him early. It took my son until he lost his gameboy to really grasp the concept. We made him replace it if he wanted to play (rather than ‘borrowing’ his brother’s) and after many sweaty days mowing the lawn for extra $$ he finally earned a new one. Now when he earns his $2/week for doing the garbage, it goes straight into the piggy bank “just in case”.

  7. Bronwynne Says:

    May 8th, 2009 at 2:37 am

    I have a rule in my family that when we stop for a treat you can either have something to eat or a drink. My four year old recently discovered that if she and her sister share a milkshake, they can also share a donut, thus getting something to eat and something to drink!!!! I figure it doesn’t cost me any more so why not!

  8. Great story! Having two kids around that age (my twins are 2.5), I’m ‘looking forward to’ (sarcasm) explaining what money is, and making your money do things for you instead of the other way around. I spoil my kids way too much, I just hope one of them does as well as your little guy!


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