However, when her pre-school son watched the exchange of plastic for food and cash, a siren sounded. "Mommy," he shouted. "You won a prize." Alarmed, Yael decided it was time to teach him more about money.
Nationwide, other parents are finding gaps in their children's financial education. For instance, according to a recent T. Rowe Price survey, nearly 60 percent of parents feel as if they should be doing more to school their children about finances. Here are a few lesson plans:
Child labor and allowances: My school-age children get a boost when they earn money from household chores, baby-sitting or lemonade stands, and it's not just about the cash. Earning and managing a few dollars improves their common sense and self-esteem. Such lessons can begin with toddlers, with small chores and rewards.
Shopping trips: Going to the grocery store with children typically leads to higher food bills. But the short-term detour around sugar cereals and other treats can create long-lasting "teachable moments" about unit-pricing, marketing gimmicks and nutrition.
New age tools: The Internet has a wealth of finance games for kids. My daughter, for example, has spent hours at http://www.webkinz.com/ and http://www.neopets.com/, which offer imaginary financial systems in which children earn salaries, build homes and make virtual purchases. The money is not real, but the lessons are valuable. Other sites include: http://www.thegreatpiggybankadventure.com/ and www.ustreas.gov/kids/ (from the Treasury Department).
Old school tools: A game of Monopoly can last for hours with lessons about saving, spending and investing. Over that board game, my kids have become savvy about the value of budgets and delayed gratification. It's not just about paper money or color-coded blocks of real estate.