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April is National Financial Capability Month, and there are a lot of resources available to help consumers, particularly young people, become more educated about money. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) offers the microsite Pocket Cents that includes the game Hit the Road, which takes players on a virtual road trip across the country, promoting saving and spending wisely to complete challenges along the way. The game provides an opportunity to introduce other areas of learning as well.
1. Learn about government and money: With the Hit the Road trip starting at our nation’s capital, talk to your kids about our government’s role with regard to money. Do they know it is the government that decides to make new paper bills or coins? The government’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing makes our paper money, while the U.S. Mint produces coins. Play games, like the U.S. Mint’s Break the Bank, to test kids’ knowledge of coin production and usage throughout the ages. Try this and other U.S. Mint activities, such as starting a coin collection, to promote appreciation of the value of careful consideration of expenditures.
2. Think about careers and salaries: Hit the road game players are offered six choices of career in the game. Talk to your kids about what each of these professions entails and what each might do on any given day in their job. Get kids thinking about what kind of skills and interests they would need for each job. For younger kids, find interactive games that can help explain what people do in different jobs. Get kids thinking about what to do with money earned, what kind of spender they may be, and the power of saving.
3. Build arithmetic skills: Although Hit the Road players receive some upfront cash to help cover road trip expenditures, additional funds must be earned along the way to remain solvent. Help kids understand that keeping within a budget is a balancing act. Involve your kids in making a budget for an upcoming family activity of your own, like shopping for food or clothing, and show them during the trip how to stay within budget by not spending more than planned for.
4. Identify coins by president: Although Hit the Road game players deal solely with whole dollar numbers, have kids become familiar with coinage as well. See if kids can identify the presidents on the penny, nickel, dime, and quarter. Ask kids why they think these men are commemorated on our nation’s coinage. See if they can place the coins in the correct denominational order. Try with larger denominations for an extra challenge.
5. Become aware of coin-making operations: The Hit the Road final trip destination is Colorado. One of the U.S. Mint facilities, where coins are made, is located in Denver, Colo. Help kids find the city of Denver on a state map.
6. Foster awareness of currencies as universal means of transactions: Ellis Island and the Statute of Liberty are highlighted in Hit the Road. Talk to kids about the fact that the statute was a gift from France, find France on a world map, and talk about the distance one would travel to get to the U.S. from places like France. Have kids play act as to what it was like to leave the only home they’ve known, pack what little they could bring, get on a ship and ride across the ocean. Would the money they have be good in the U.S.? What would they do if it was not? If you were to take your road trip in another country, what would you do for money?
7. Promote financial awareness with books:
Read stories to your kids, such as A Chair for My Mother, that promote financial responsibility.
Older kids might enjoy books, such as Money, that explores the history of money around the world.
8. Combine learning with exercise. Set out some coins in pile for each kid. Make each coin equate to a certain exercise; for example, a penny means do one jumping jack; a nickel equates to one sit-up; and a quarter is one squat. Let each kid get moving with their individualized exercise plan based on their coins.
There’s much more to experience in the game than mentioned here, so find out just how financially savvy you and your kids are with Hit the Road. NCUA, an independent agency overseeing federal credit unions, offers financial literacy resources for consumers of all ages.Careers // Finances // Financial capability // Mathematics // Money // U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing // U.S. Mint // April 24, 2014