By June/July, most of the children in the US have closed the books for the school year. For some children, summer means camp, or family vacations. For teens, it could mean a job or internship. Perhaps it's just lazy days playing with friends. But just because children are not stuck behind desks doesn't mean they have to stop learning.
The fact is, learning doesn’t
occur only in the classroom. Parents can provide their children with books and
activities in and outside of the home. These books and activities reinforce
lessons learned at school: music lessons, summer camp, clubs and sports aren’t
merely fun for children. They provide opportunities to use the skills they have
been taught in play or real-life situations.
After a summer of “hanging
around,” these intellectually understimulated children have lost reading
skills, while others have stayed the same or even made gains. Kids who are
behind tend to dislike school and perform poorly. Teachers are frustrated
because each fall, they have to spend precious classroom hours in reviewing
last year’s material before going ahead.
If children spend the summer merely “hanging around,” studies
show that summer learning loss equals at least one month of instruction. Summer
loss is more pronounced for math facts and spelling than for other tested skill
areas. That might be because it's
harder to work math enrichment into summer schedules than reading enrichment.
It's important, therefore, to consciously plan activities
that seem like fun to kids while reinforcing number skills. What better way
than some money games? Kids love to play games, and are fascinated by money:
how to acquire it, how to hang onto it, and what to do with it once they've
gotten it. Here are some ideas:
- Coin Games. Children learn very early on that money has value.
Once they are old enough to handle small objects, teach them how much each
coin is worth and do activities using the coins. Let kids feed parking
meters and pay for small purchases in the store themselves.Have everyone
in the family empty their change into a large jar so they can see the
money accumulating. After a time, have everyone guess how much is in the
jar, and then count it. Award prizes, of course!
- Play "Bank." Put a pile of coins in the middle of
the table. By turns, roll a die and take that number of pennies from the
pile. As you accumulate enough pennies, you can trade them in for nickels,
dimes, or quarters. The first player to get one quarter wins the round.
- Make Coin Caterpillars. Gather a number of coins of all
denominations. Lay a few out in a wavy row on a piece of paper. Draw legs
and feelers on the paper to turn the row of coins into a cute caterpillar.
Add up the value of the coins to see how much your caterpillar is worth.
Or, assign each child an amount—say, 75 cents—and have them select coins
adding up to that amount to form their caterpillar.
- Board games. In Monopoly,
players buy, trade and develop property, and collect rent from their
opponents. (The recent "Electronic Banking" edition uses debit
cards instead of bills.) In The Game
of Life, players work their way from college through retirement,
paying out expenses along the way. In The
players do chores, collect an allowance, then get to spend it. There are
many other such games. The advantage of traditional board games is that
they're multi-player, giving you an opportunity to play along with your
- Video Games, Online Games, and Apps. If kids are going to play games on their
computers, phones, or other electronic devices—and most do—they might as
well be learning something in the process. Many of the traditional board
games, like those mentioned above, have online versions. MassMutual
has developed Save! The Game, an
app for the iPad and iPhone that teaches kids the difference between wants
and needs. Disney has developed The Great Piggybank Adventure, which explores
such financial concepts as goal
setting, wise spending, diversification and the the effects of inflation.
For middle- and high-schoolers, Visa has developed Financial Football, which teaches teens about personal finance
using the rules and structure of the National Football League. Most of
these games are free.
Make the Most of Your
Summer “Down Time”
While your children take
time to continue their learning, consider focusing part of your summer “down
time” on your household’s finances. To learn more or access helpful materials,
speak with a local financial professional or visit www.massmutual.com/family.