This kindy is helping kids fall in love with finance

Is five years old too young to start learning about money?

No way.

That’s according to Melis, who goes to kindergarten in Brisbane’s south. For those outside of Queensland, it’s the equivalent of pre-school, or the year before school starts.

“I have a white [piggy bank] with so much money. Like a billion,” Melis said.

Her favourite game is Monopoly.

Her mum, Tuba Degirmenci, says her daughter understands many of the basic concepts of finance, such as the value of items and the idea of buying and selling.

“We often buy toys second-hand or sell her assorted toys,” she said.

“We are counting a lot and we also bought her a toy cash desk with play money.”

A young girl and her mother are smiling at the park, with colourful paint on their face.
Five-year-old Melis loves learning about money at home, her mum says.(Supplied)

She’s also learning about the world of finance through her kindy.

Katie Johnson, who’s a teacher and the director at Tarragindi War Memorial Kindergarten, says it’s a particularly important topic right now with many of the children curious about the pandemic and what it means for their families.

Katie is passionate about kids developing a healthy relationship with money from an early age. That way, they can set themselves up to be good with money well into their adult years.

“I have three children, I taught my own three children from a young age and I see the value in that,” she said.

“It’s not an adult thing — it’s a life skill.”

Kids sit outside at a yarning circle with their kindy teacher, learning about money.
Kindy teacher Katie Johnson talks to the kids about the difference between “need” and “want”.(Supplied: Greer Novak)

Many people don’t realise that financial education is a subject embedded in the maths and general curriculum from kindergarten through to year 10.

Learning about money helps kids to problem-solve, deal with ethics and handle responsibility, according to ASIC’s MoneySmart.

They provide resources and professional development for teachers.

“It’s not an abstract concept for young people — they’re consumers, they’re making financial decisions all the time,” says Laura Higgins, ASIC’s senior executive leader.

And parents have an important role to play, too.

“Have these conversations early on. Build the habit of talking about money and setting goals that are short- and long-term thinking,” Ms Higgins said.

“It’s always appropriate for kids to see adults making choices — we can’t have it all and we can’t have it all at once.”

A kindergarten-aged child holds a pretend $50 note in front of her.
Money is a topic that we should be introducing kids to at a young age, experts say.(Supplied: Greer Novak)

Katie says kids often model their parents’ behaviour and pick up on interactions.

“They’re seeing them tap the card. They know how much a coffee costs,” she said.

But an important first step is teaching kids about the value of coins and notes.

“We looked at catalogues and asked — what could $5 buy and what could $10 buy? The kids quickly said they need $50 or $100,” Katie explained.

They also learnt about receiving change when shopping.

Another good concept to talk about is ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ — using birthday and Christmas lists as a real-life example.

But some of the best learning has been through playing.

The kindy has a shop set up where the kids play at being customers or shopkeepers, use a menu, make the products out of Play-Doh, and exchange money.

“It started with real money, and then the kids said we need to know how to tap a credit card. We help facilitate that learning,” she said.

But it’s not all about transactions, says Katie. Some of the most important lessons are around making do and not spending money at all.

“We do a lot of things around recycling and making out of nature. So they understand you don’t always have to have money to be creative or have fun.”

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