top of page
  • Writer's pictureLaurel P. Jackson, PhD

Financial Literacy: A Bitter-sweet Lesson and Activity

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

The three of us were 7-year-olds when we heard that off-tuned melody that rang from the ice cream truck. We all scrambled into our respective homes to ask our parents for money who were no-where to be found in that split second. So, my cousin dipped his hands into my mother’s bag and pulled out whatever we could find.

“I only found one!” He screamed out as he waved the bill in his hands, and proudly handed the ice-cream truck driver a one-hundred-dollar bill.

We all watched, jumping up and down as the truck driver each gave us our ice-creams. We ran off with huge smiles on our ice-cream smothered faces, never turning our heads back. I am sure that the truck driver had an even larger smile on his face.

This has become a funny family story. But, it has a message which I’ve carried into my motherhood journey.

Why Financial Literacy Matters

Financial literacy is the capacity to understand the what, the why and the how of money. It's about making informed decisions, critical thinking, and grasping the consequences of those choices. According to research by the Milken Institute, many individuals in the US, regardless of age, lack the fundamental knowledge and skills needed for sound financial decision-making.

Our schools often fall short in nurturing and equipping children with the relevant skills required to navigate the complex financial world of the 21st century. However the good news is that young children can begin developing these essential skills at an early age. By becoming better decision-makers and critical thinkers, they can comprehend the ramifications of their choices. This lays the groundwork for learning how to manage finances—take out loans responsibly, for example—and to save for their future.

Understanding money Children can begin to grasp the concept that money has value and is a tool for obtaining things that they want or need in their preschool years. You can begin by taking them along on a shopping trip. As you go through the shops, you can point to various items with your child and look at the prices. You can compare various items and their prices, so that your child can begin to understand that different items have different values. Here are three components of financial literacy to introduce to preschool-age children

  1. Spending: Engaging your children in discussions about why we need money can be fun. This allows them to critically evaluate and understand it’s value. While you are shopping together, you can ask questions such as, "why do we need this item?" Encourage them to think about what might be essential, versus what is a want.

  2. Saving: Introducing children to the concept of saving at this young stage, helps them to develop emotional regulation, patience and sets the stage for them to hone their budgeting skills later on. Children often save their favorite treats for last, and saving money can be approached in a similar way. Encourage them to set goals, whether it's for a special toy or a future treat.

  3. Sharing: By focusing on sharing, we nurture our children’s capacity to think about others and to be compassionate. This aspect of financial literacy enables young children to have a sense of agency and gives them an understanding that they have the ability to impact something that they care about or believe in.

Spending, Saving and Sharing Jars

Below is a fun activity that you can do with your 4–6-year-old to put this all into practice and start honing those spending, saving and sharing muscles.

You will Need:

· 3 transparent Jars

· A few coins to start off

· Stickers to Decorate

· Paint, glue, paper, scissors…anything to decorate each jar


  • Explain the Purpose: Sit down with your child and explain what each jar represents. The spending jar is for something that they want soon. The saving jar is for something they would like to buy in the future. The sharing jar is for a cause that they believe in and would like to support.

  • Decorate the Jars: Let your child decorate the jar with stickers, drawings, anything that they desire, as long as it is appealing to them.

  • Set a Goal for each jar: Discuss how much they would like to attain for each jar, and set milestones. For example, if they want a new toy that costs $20, explain that they should aim to save $20 in their “spend” jar. Similarity, you can create goals with your child for the saving and sharing jar.

  • Track Progress: Create a simple chart(do you mean on not or? ) piece of paper to track the progress towards their savings goal. Let your child mark off each amount as it goes into the jar.

  • Acknowledge and Celebrate Milestones: When your child reaches milestones (e.g., halfway to their goal or achieving the goal), acknowledge their progress. For example, once your child reaches their spending goal, help them to count the money and decide how to use it. Once they have reached their savings goal, celebrate it and ( help them figure out where, when and how to share their money. This teaches them the value of setting objectives and working towards them.


Nurturing financial literacy in our 4-6-year-olds is an investment in their learning and their future. By using age-appropriate strategies, parents can empower their children with the skills needed to make informed financial decisions. So, perhaps the next time you hear the jingle of the ice-cream truck, you can use that as an opportunity to embark on their financial literacy journey and know that you are establishing a solid foundation for their life-long learning.

How important do you think financial literacy is for your pre-schooled child?


According to a 2019 study by Experian, 76% of Gen Z students indicated that they “wish they could have taken a financial literacy class.”


About the Author: Dr. Laurel Paula Jackson is nurture’s VP Caregiver Learning. She is a perpetual learner, who holds degrees from Oxford and Cambridge Universities in Education, and a doctoral degree in Education from the University of London. Dr. Laurel has spent the past fifteen years working with schools and educational institutions around the world as an advisor and Edtech founder. More recently, she has been an educational coach with a focus on 21st century skills, nutrition and wellness, speaks on issues related to sustainability and writes children’s books that inspire readers to think about the connection between people, place and planet.

35 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page