Recently, we’ve been trying to figure a way to explain the concept of money to my daughter. She is 4, almost 5, and has a difficult time with concepts of more or less, yesterday versus last year, I think it’s more of a language barrier issue. However, explaining that there is a certain amount of money for her to spend, has become crucial, as she has latched on to all the heavily marketed toys targeted at her age range.
So in an effort to try and slim down her constant urge to acquire more toys, as well as explain why we just can’t (and shouldn’t) buy EVERYTHING, I decided to make a money chart.
I took the cue for this, and explaining money, from something else that is helpful for autistic kids: Visual Maps.
These can be useful in explaining sequences of actions to kids in a way that can make more sense to them. For example, say you want to teach a kid about going to the store. You may dray a series of images, one of putting shoes on, putting a coat on, getting in the car, driving, then arriving at the store. If kids have issues related to transitions (which is common in autism) this can help ease anxiety, as well as aid in explaining more complex processes.
However, for money, I basically reduced the idea down to dollar. Essentially, you have to start somewhere, and rather than counting pennies, or explaining the need for money, or bordering on a discussion about what a dollar is in fiat currency (these conversations can go deep, with little result) I decided to turn this process into:
- Collect Dollars for item
- Aquire item
Making it Fun
So to make this something she is interested in, I took a picture of the toy she wanted, wrote it’s price, then made placeholders for each dollar required for it. Then, as she accumulates money, she can take the chart down, color the dollar in. And be happy with the progress.
Of course, then we had to figure out where she would get money from. Should we just give an allowance? Well, after reading around the internet, I read of a chart system that the parents would qualify each chore for a percentage of that days available allowance: IE, complete days chores, get dollar. Complete only 75% percent, get 75 cents, essentially.
That would probably be too complex for her age. So we just decided to do arbitrary chores, with a max amount of money she can earn per week.
So between her mom and I, we check-in with each other about what chores we could have her do, how many she has done, and where she is on earning that weeks allowance.
So far it’s worked great. Madison is now doing chores. And coloring in her dollars is a favorite thing to do. Unfortunately, she likes earning money so much, that she wakes up in the morning asking to do chores, and would probably do chores all day if she could, just to earn a ton of money. Not ideal, but hey, atleast she is motivated.
What Is Learned
Essentially, with this system we are teaching her:
- The idea of currency
- The concept of currency as something that comes from labor
- That currency has scarcity
- The practice of saving for something you want
- Some idea of the value of her toys
Overall, it’s been a great thing, and it’s working out well. I’m sure as she gets older it will be revised to accomodate her more developed abilities to understand money, time, etc.
And now that she has money, she has her own wallet.
Glad we set this up.