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The difference between a need and a want

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My second graders know the difference between a need and a want. If asked, "What is a need?", they will respond, "Something you need to survive"...food, water, air, clothing, shelter, love..." This past Friday we had "mini-mall" where the kids got to satisfy their "wants" and go shopping! In social studies for the past three weeks, we've been learning the difference between needs and wants and consumers and producers.

The children have been earning money ("Cooley Cash") to do their jobs: coming to school on time, following the rules, making good grades, doing their work, being responsible! They had a chance to open up a "store" at their desks and be producers and consumers.

This is always a fun day because the kids are so excited to buy and sell. I know the parents are thinking, please don't come home with a bunch of junk! But, if they earned their money, they had the right to decide how they would spend it. It also teaches them not to be hoarders! They picked through some of the things they don't play with anymore at home to sell them to their classmates.

Photo: Children in Mrs. Cooley's class spending their "Cooley Cash" and having a great time being consumers and producers.

I am hardly the first to come up with this fun activity; second, third, and fourth grades have been doing "mini-mall" to teach social studies/economics for years! Kids love it because they like being treated respectfully and earning "money" they rightfully deserve and then being responsible in their spending habits. It's nice to see children of such young ages making wise choices with their savings.

Yes, sometimes you may be thinking: I need chocolate, retail therapy, a massage, a vacation...But life really is good just as is! It is especially good when we see just how much we have to be grateful for.

For last week's journal I asked my children to tell me the difference between a need and a want. One child said, "Wants are things you want right now! I want a fancy car, toys, and an American Girl Doll!" She also said, "I need some books, a house, food, water, clothing, and love."

Parents have the difficult job of teaching their children how to grow into responsible, self-sufficient adults. So when they're ready to go off into the world, hopefully we will have shown them how to thrive in every phase of their lives, from taking care of their everyday needs to managing their finances. Rather than bombarding them with lectures, I think it's best to teach children financial responsibility slowly and consistently. Children always appreciate being talked to respectfully in a non-lecturing way and in return they have more respect for whatever it is we are teaching them.

Children can understand the basics of budgeting. Most kids get allowances and can grasp simple concepts of spending and saving. It is so sweet to hear my second graders talk about how they are proud and happy that their parents work hard to give them their basic needs. They understand that if there's anything left over that's when the "wants" come in to play.

It's wonderful when children become the teachers. I was listening to some of my teammates talk about their children giving up their allowance to give to Haiti. I think most adults and children always want to do the right thing. How nice for parents to see their children being generous, giving, and compassionate. They end up teaching and reminding us to do the same.

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