At this point in the AEI curriculum, almost all of your children have seen or participated in the Marshmallow Experiment. The point of the original study was to measure the outcomes of children who responded to instant and delayed gratification. We use the outcomes of this experiment to discuss self-control and spending habits with the students throughout the year. It's a tangible life lesson that even kindergartners can understand. With Halloween around the corner, it's a great time to not only do a few experiments of your own to observe your children's behaviors, but also to consider discussing how what we do with our Halloween candy can fit into behaviors related to financial literacy.
Have your children sort their candy into piles and rank them favorite to least favorite. Each pile will have a different "value" associated with it. You will find that you have one of two types of kids: Type 1 eats every piece of his/her favorite candy and doesn't even think twice about it. Type 2 will eat a piece or two of the favorite candy and save the rest. Type 1 will probably get a stomachache and be upset that they don't have any of their favorites left – similar to what happens at the end of the month when you're down to your last few dollars and you're out of gas in your car. Type 2 has learned to budget (or ration) the favorite candy just like we want them to do with money eventually.
If you have two siblings or go trick-or-treating with friends, this observation opportunity can be useful. When all the trick-or-treating is finished and the kids are sorting their candy, the trading of candy will begin. As parents, it's important just to observe at first. And then, the negotiation lesson can begin – how many pieces of other types of candy will it take for your child to part with one of their favorites? Kids can also learn that candy is only worth what someone is willing to trade you for it. As your children learn these skills, which they may need some coaching around, they are also learning that someday they may need to negotiate their salary or the price of a car, or they may need to ask for a raise.
There are plenty of other lessons and money management ideas around Halloween candy:
- Offer your children payment for pounds of candy. For example, one pound of candy is equal to $1. Who knows, maybe they'll do a little negotiating with you on the value of a pound of candy. Be willing to budge a little, but don't over pay for the value of the candy. Some dentists will also buy back candy.
- Suggest donating a bag of candy to a local shelter or send it to our service men or women overseas. The most important part of this lesson is the conversation you have with your kids about donations and why providing something to someone else is important.
- Offer to take your kids trick-or-treating, but inform them that they will have to pay a "tax" to you. Negotiate the tax – five pieces of your favorite candy or something that is a win-win for both of you.
The conversations you have with your children are the most important lessons you can teach when it comes to money management. Halloween certainly lends itself to these lessons, we just have to take the time to listen to their questions and insert our knowledge whenever possible. Believe me, they're listening.