Something that’s caught our eye this week is this BBC News article about a primary school in Boston, England, which has set up their own school bank. Pupils are rewarded for good work and their contribution to school life by being given ‘Kirts’ (the school’s own currency) which they can save in the school bank. Once they’ve saved enough, they can withdraw the currency from the bank to spend at the school store, both of which are staffed by pupils. The aim is to develop children’s financial literacy and help them learn how to manage money.
This got us thinking about how else children could be supported to become more aware of money matters. We know of early years settings that operate a play-money token system for snack time, where children exchange tokens of differing amounts for different morning snacks. Wood and Attfield (2005, p.204) share a similar case study where some children were involved in preparing sandwiches and then acted as café owners as their peers came as customers to ‘buy’ their goods with pretend money. The authors use the example to show how children can develop their mathematical skills in a play-based context but certainly activities like this would be beneficial in developing children’s financial awareness as well.
The school bank and store and the snack time café are both real, tangible practices that help children make sense of saving and spending in an authentic, meaningful way. It is experiences like these that Whitebread and Bingham (2013) think are more beneficial for developing children’s financial habits than talking about money in an abstract sense. They argue that opportunities to delay gratification, like saving ‘Kirts’ in the school bank, are also important for the development of self-regulation (that is, the ability to manage and control one’s behaviours and emotions). Yet above all, Whitebread and Bingham believe that it is role-modelling from parents and other significant adults that shape children’s attitudes towards financial decisions.
One way that parents can role model financial responsibility to children is through using pocket money as a pedagogic tool. The UK’s Money Advice Service give several reasons why this can be beneficial, including that “the sooner kids are familiar with coins and notes, the quicker they begin to appreciate the value of money”. Similarly, a 2014 survey by ING found a correlation (note – not causation) between those who had been given pocket money as children and those that “show greater financial competence” and more regular saving habits as adults. However, we know that providing pocket money isn’t financially viable for all families, which is why schools and early years settings should be playing a role, too, in modelling good financial habits.
We’d like to know what other strategies you think might help children’s financial literacy, whether that’s at home or in schools and early years settings. Have you got any ideas or examples of good practice?