Money Makes the World Go Around
When you try to explain to a group of 4-6 years olds (as I did with my Squirrel Scouts) that money makes the world go around, you get varied responses – but nothing that leads you to think they quite understand what the phrase means.
They understood that money is needed for shopping and for everyday living, as well as perhaps holidays. They understood that sometimes they are given pocket money to spend or to save. But they didn’t really know more than that – so what did I do? I set up a room with a “shop” and a “bank”, as well as some money for the children to spend or save (we used coppers to help them understand small amounts of money). But first of all, they had to “earn” it…
Before embarking on any money-making, saving or spending, we read a story about a bunny – a story that would help the children to learn some important money lessons. Thanks to Ladybird Books and their Moneybunny book series (written and illustrated by Cinders McLeod), they had the chance to hear how bunnies could Save It!; Spend It!; Earn It and Give It!
Honey Bunny dreams of saving a big bag of money. She earns two carrots a week by taking care of her siblings. Honey, we learn, wants to save her carrots for a house of her own, where she can be away from her noisy siblings – but she will need to be patient to save enough carrots. My Squirrels had to decide how much money they wanted to put in the bank so that it would grow. (They now all have their own hand-painted cheeky monkey money box for this.)
In Spend it!, we meet Sonny Bunny who is given three carrots a week for his allowance. Sonny loves Saturdays because this is when he can take his money to the shops. The trouble is that he wants to buy everything and he finds choosing very hard. His mum helps him to understand that he needs to think about what he spends and why. Although nothing in our shop cost more than a few pennies, it was all very shiny and the Squirrels had to think hard about how much they should spend, and how much they should keep in their savings.
Earn It! has another important lesson to impart when it comes to learning about money. My Squirrels had to do some cleaning, hoovering, washing-up or dusting to earn their pennies. Bun the bunny earns one carrot a week for walking Buck the dog, and one for singing to her brother. Bun loves to sing and has big dreams of becoming rich and famous. She soon learns that her singing lessons will cost her money – and also she can become famous in other ways. Practice is just as important as making money…
Finally, after we had earned money, spent money and saved money, it was time to see what all the money we had looked like. We emptied our bank, laid all the money out on the floor - and made some HUGE money towers, of course! - before counting it all up and deciding who we would like to give it to. Just like Chummy Bunny in Give It!, we learned that you don’t have to be a superhero to help others. Chummy used his money to plant flowers for the bees. We gave our £25 to a local nature reserve.
We all learned some important lessons about money that day, and week after week my Squirrels remind me just how much they remembered. If you are learning about money with young children, these books are a great resource. I would also recommend Usborne’s Lift the Flap Questions and Answers series which do exactly what it says on the tin: answers children’s many questions in a friendly and accessible way. And who doesn’t love a flap book, after all? There is also Noodle Juice’s What is Money, perfect for slightly older readers who can engage with ideas about taxes, whether money is good and about the future of money.
Just remember that money does not grow on trees (even if we did make some money trees) – but it does make the world go around!
By Louise Ellis-Barrett