The Language of Money

Parents reading a book with their daughterAs we continue our conversation with Human Sciences Family Finance Specialist Mary Weinand, she reminds us how important financial literacy is and even recommends a few children’s books.

I believe financial literacy is like any other language and like any other language we need to hear it often to understand it. Young children learn best by observing and mimicking adults. Our children may not understand the concept of credit, money, or savings but they are very good observers and they learn from us. This process is called financial socialization and research by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau indicates that children form personal financial habits as early as preschool and these attitudes often carry into adulthood.

So how can we help our children learn appropriate financial behaviors?

Young children may not know anything about banks, credit cards, or money. But, they are very good observers. They have constant exposure to their parents and a desire to mimic their behavior, or the behaviors of the community around them. Research by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and others indicate that the personal traits, habits, and behaviors that lead to financial well-being in adulthood start to form as early as preschool.

Children as young as three begin to demonstrate self-regulations, persistence, and focus. They can use these qualities when using and managing limited resources like time, money, treats, or belongings. They have begun to develop basic values and attitudes around saving, consuming and early numeracy skills.

Parents are often the biggest and most positive influence of the financial socialization of their children. They can help their children by providing opportunities to learn and interact with money. Children learn important money lessons simply by watching parents earn, spend, save, share and borrow. Have children create shopping lists and help them to comparison shop and select grocery items. Include children in family financial decisions, planning, and saving for goals such as vacation and college education. And, model positive financial behaviors during everyday routines, such as comparing prices and products, and sticking to a shopping list. You don’t have to have a lot of money, in fact children often learn best when choices are limited and they can observe the difference between needs and wants.

Another method to introduce children to the topic of money is through books. It is often easier to be more objective when talking about book characters and their money decisions. After families talk about what the characters could do, adopting some of the same financial concepts into their own lives is easier too.

And, parents do not need to be money experts. Many of the building blocks for good financial decision making—like patience, planning, and problem-solving—do not require a lot of financial know-how. Some good book choices are; The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble With Money, (Stan & Jan Berenstain), or A Bargain for Frances, (Russell Hoban). These books help express important financial topics such as problem solving, savings, earnings, and self-control.  A great resource for families and libraries is the Money as You Grow Book Club guide which provides several family activities and more reading suggestions.

To learn more about family finance information, contact any ISU Extension and Outreach county office to be connected with a human sciences specialist in family finance.

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Conversations, conversations, conversations

Dr. Constance Beecher, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, School of Education and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach shares more with us about expanding children’s vocabulary.

“Vocabulary can be developed by directly teaching new words, or indirectly through having a lot of exposure to words in books and conversations.   Research suggests a combination of both is the best approach, says Dr. Beecher.”

“Developing vocabulary indirectly through books and conversations has many benefits. Children who are read to frequently gain a life-long love of reading. The more children hear different words and understand their meaning, the better readers they will become. This is because learning to read requires an understanding of the relationship between the sounds of language (phonemic awareness) and the symbol or letter that represents that sound (phonics). The more words children know, the better they are able to understand the letter/sound relationship, and conversely, the more knowledge children have about the letter/sound relationship, the better they are able to learn new words,” Dr. Beecher.

She also suggests, “Parents can read a variety of books to and with children, and pause at words that children may not know to explain their meaning. For example, while reading “Corduroy went up the escalator.”, pause and ask “do you know what an escalator is?”. Then define: “An escalator is a set of stairs that moves you from one floor to another.” Then explain: “Last week while I was at Macys, and I rode an escalator from the first floor to the second floor”. Then relate to child: “Where have you ridden on an escalator?” – state the question in a way so that the child can say the word, or ask child to repeat word.”

Dr. Beecher reminds us that, “When having conversations, ask open ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a yes/no). During these conversations, you can introduce synonyms. For example, you might be talking about what happened at daycare or preschool. If your child talks about making a tall tower in the block area, you can say “Oh, you made an enormous skyscraper?” “Enormous is another word for something is very big or tall”, and when a building is enormous, we call it a skyscraper. Why do you think we say skyscraper?”. This gives children an opportunity to practice the new words. Children need opportunities not only to hear new words, but to practice saying them.”

And she also wants us to remember the Non-fiction! Non-fiction or informational books are a great source of new vocabulary. When children are exposed to a wide range of vocabulary in areas like science or history, they are more prepared when they have to read these types of texts in school. See websites like this for suggestions,

Or talk with your librarian. This list of non-fiction books for ages 3-5 comes from the State Library of Iowa

Dr. Beecher says, “You can add vocabulary to your everyday activities. When you take your car to the shop to change your oil, talk about oil, engines, and other components of a car. When you go to a nursery to pick out new plants and flowers for your yard be sure to note the different names of flowers, types of grass, plants and trees. When you make a new recipe, talk about spaghetti, marinara sauce, parmesan cheese, sautéing. Use a mix of nouns and verbs.”

She says, “It takes about an average child about 12 times of interacting with a word before he or she is familiar enough with the word to use it, and many times we do not provide enough opportunities for children to get this practice.”

And Dr. Beecher’s final thoughts? “Lastly, make it fun. There is no need to sit children down with flashcards and ask them to define words. Reading and talking together will make learning vocabulary natural and fun.”

Share with us ways that you have made ‘vocabulary’ fun!

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Let’s Read Together

From “The Wheels on the Bus” to “Goodnight Moon” and countless stories in between, a wide variety of children’s books are available to parents. The research shows that reading with your children promotes language and literacy development and improves their chances for success in school.

Books can expose children to a world beyond their everyday experiences. Perhaps your time together with books will promote a love for reading that will last a lifetime.

During September, we’ll talk about the importance of reading to children. Won’t you join us and share your own personal experiences with books?

Let’s Read Together

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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