These 19 Holiday Gift Ideas Make Personal Finance Fun for Kids
It’s never too young to start educating the youth about how to save money. And as the holidays come up, you’re probably looking for innovative gifts that will actually serve them a purpose later in life. Do we have an idea for you: Give them the gift of finance.
Okay, yes, it sounds a little like an American capitalist cautionary tale to gift your kids a Roth IRA when they’re only — checks notes — 5. But how often do we hear adults talk about the money lessons they wish they had learned when they still had time?
One way to ensure your child becomes the high-school student who knows how to save their money — where to be thrifty and where not to be, let’s say — is to ensure they have some toys, educational books and games that will get them thinking the right way about how to invest the $2 you just gave them for taking out the trash.
19 Fun, Finance-Themed Gifts for Children
The reality is that learning about money doesn’t have to be boring. And while it may seem challenging to teach your kid about compound interest or investing, it’s easy to start the conversation by using a book or a game.
It turns out that even toy aisles and game rooms can become an avenue to explore finance when you look hard enough. So consider these gift ideas as you’re shopping for holiday presents for your future money moguls.
Note: All costs are the list prices found on Amazon on Nov. 9, not factoring in any sales. Tax and shipping are not included.
Let’s face it: Your child doesn’t want to read a dusty textbook for the holidays. But what about these childrens’ books, which mask the importance of learning finance goals early in rhymes, fairy tales or your favorite animal protagonists. Bonus: The books themselves are budget-friendly.
1. “The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble With Money” by Stan and Jan Berenstain
Here’s a little synopsis from Amazon that we can all relate to: “Mama and Papa are worried that Brother and Sister seem to think money grows on trees.” But they actually learn an important lesson: the value of starting their own business. Your kids will love this book not just because of its life lessons—for example, they’ll learn what interest means—but also because it includes 50 free stickers!
2. “One Cent, Two Cent, Old Cent, New Cent” by Bonnie Worth
Who among us didn’t love The Cat in the Hat when we were children? Now, it’s time to share the cat’s tales on money with this book that is more than meets the eye. This children’s nonfiction book covers the history of money, from bartering to our own paper currency. It’s great for teaching young readers how to look at nonfiction—it even has an index.
3. “Curious George Saves His Pennies” by Margret and H.A. Rey
What Curious George wants is a special red train in the toy store. What he learns is that, in order to get it, he’ll have to save money and work to buy it. For the child who is just starting to express their own desires, this book is perfect for teaching them how they can earn enough money to achieve their dreams—even if their dreams are just buying a red train.
4. “How to Turn $100 Into $1,000,000” by James McKenna, Jeannine Glista and Matt Fontaine
Let’s say your child is a little older and has already expressed an interest in learning how to save their money—and even invest it. This 144-page book is a primer to getting your first job, saving your first million dollars and the power of compound interest. The treatise is very action-oriented, meaning your child will actually have real steps they can take once they finish the book to get on their path to saving and investing.
5. “Finance 101 for Kids: Money Lessons Children Cannot Afford to Miss,” by Walter Andal
If your child is a cross between the history buff and the Do-It-Yourselfer, this book is likely for them. In an easy and informative manner, this tome explores how money began, how to earn and make it and how both credit and the stock market work. Even the adults among us may find that they could use a refresher on some of these concepts.
6. “A Smart Girl’s Guide: Money: How to Make It, Save It and Spend It” by Nancy Holyoke and Brigette Barrager
Most money books are geared toward either male readers or no gender in particular, but this book from the American Girl brand is marketed specifically toward young girls who want to learn more about finance and how to earn and save their money. With interview sections like ‘What was your best buy ever?,’ readers will learn directly from young people their age about how to best use their money.
Board games are a way to involve the whole family in the personal finance fun. Not only can this be an entertaining holiday activity, but it will also teach your child that saving money is an effort their whole family embraces.
Ah, Monopoly. You come from one of two types of families: either you played Monopoly all the time or have never touched it. All about buying and amassing various properties, and then selling them to the highest bidder, Monopoly’s biggest asset is that it teaches you that the one with the most money wins. And that doesn’t have to be the one who might seem to be the winner at the outset.
6. Pay Day
Pay Day is what we might call a vintage game. Started in 1975, the game can take as little as 15 minutes to play if you know what you’re doing. The point, like Monopoly, is to have the most money at the end of the game, but the process is slightly different. You both earn a salary and have to pay off your bills. Your kids will learn how important it is to make more money than the total of your bills.
7. The Game of Life
Right up there with Monopoly is the classic game of Life. It may sound grim to go through the entire course of your life in one board game, but this Hasbro board gives you options: choose a career, go on vacation, find exciting new adventures and surrender to the unpredictability of it all. Your children will also learn about money: by the end of the game, they’ll have to pay off their debts and total up their wealth. Not a great lesson to learn—at the end of the game that is life, the wealthiest wins. But it’s a board game, after all. Don’t take it too literally.
8. Money Bags
This game is all about counting coins. Players move along the board by adding different amounts of change to their stash. They also exchange their money for coins of different denominations. The game is specifically intended to teach children about how paper money works, so it’s a helpful tool if you’re starting to teach your child to stop reaching into your wallet without understanding what they’re asking for first.
11. Buy It Right Shopping Game
This board game is the perfect addition—see what we did there?—to your children’s holiday gifts if they are just learning the basics of mathematics. Armed with a calculator, paper bills and coins, players will have to make correct change and learn how to recognize different values of money.
12. The Allowance Game
Did you just start giving your child their first allowance for doing basic household chores, like their laundry or making their bed? Then they’ll obviously need to learn how to save that money and—eventually—use it. This board game teaches kids how to add and subtract money and make change, much like Buy It Right, but puts it in the context of something they’ll understand.
13. Stock Exchange Game
The stock market is one of the most enigmatic pieces of the American economy—how many of us really understand how it works? This game teaches players strategically different ways to structure their stock career. They can choose to buy risky stocks while they’re young and eventually make more stable investments. All the while, they’ll see how far money can go when you start with one amount and end with quite another.
Ask any preschool teacher — young children learn through play. Role playing is a great way to introduce your little one to money.
9. Play Money
If your kids only see Mom and Dad swipe a card at the store, they probably don’t get much exposure to physical money. Play money can familiarize children with what currency looks like and show them how different coins and bills carry different values. This will be especially helpful if you combine the paper money with a board game that illustrates how making change works.
10. Cash Registers
A toy cash register adds an additional layer to playing with fake money. Encourage your child to set up a pretend shop and take turns acting out the role of the shopper and the store clerk. Kiddie cash registers come in a variety of different styles — from Barbie, Minnie Mouse and Disney Princess versions to more generic registers that better appeal to both genders. Your child will love carrying this around and hearing the Kah-ching sound. (And yes, the Amazon description does confirm that it makes a sound.)
The classic piggy bank has evolved so much from the pink porcelain porker that required a hammer to access your savings. These kids’ banks are upgrades from the ones of yesteryear.
16. Melissa & Doug Created By Me Piggy Bank
The title says it all: this piggy bank will truly be created by your child. With four pots of paint, glitter and stickers, your child can decorate this piggy bank however they see fit. They’ll have even more incentive to keep it safe—and keep the money inside it safe—after all the hard work to design it.
17. Moonjar Classic Moneybox
This bank is divided into three sections so kids can deposit money toward savings, spending and sharing. It’s a great way for your kid to learn to allocate money for different purposes. And the idea of adding a “share” box is a nice strategy to teach the importance of giving to others even from a young age.
18. Cartoon Excavator Piggy Bank
If your child spends their days dreaming of construction sites and tractors, they’ll love this excavator piggy bank, which looks like it could be at home on a large-scale construction site. All they’ll have to do is pop a coin into the back slot and then play with their new toy.
19. Dog Balloon Animal Piggy Bank
Is your child an aspiring artist entranced by the pieces of Jeff Koons? Okay, probably not. But it’s not unlikely that your child adores balloon animals—after all, what child doesn’t? This piggy bank is both tasteful—it won’t look ugly on your living room bookshelf—and utilitarian.
Writer Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder, often writing about selling goods online through social platforms. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Smithsonian Magazine and the Tampa Bay Times.