Summer vacation when you’re a kid means endless days of bike riding, swimming, playing video games, and fighting over who gets the last purple Popsicle in the freezer.
It’s not nearly as idyllic for Mom and Dad. Not only do parents need to line up (and pay for) alternate child care for the kids during the summer months, but they also have to worry about Junior and Sis spending their allowances on Dilly bars and Star Wars sunglasses that break immediately, only to ask for more money to go to the movies every weekend.
That’s why summer is a perfect opportunity to teach your kids about money management. Not only will these money moves help to improve your kids’ money skills, but it will also help them to retain the math and reading skills they might not otherwise be practicing while school is out.
Here are five great money activities your kids can enjoy this summer vacation.
1. Lemonade stand
There’s a reason why this classic introduction to entrepreneurship is a perennial favorite. Encouraging your kids to set up a lemonade stand gives them an opportunity to think about all the aspects of making a business successful, including venue, startup costs, pricing, advertisement, and signage.
Your kids will learn all sorts of important lessons about economics through this summer project. For instance, they can charge a higher price for homemade lemonade made from real lemons as compared to lemonade mixed from a powder — but they have to do more work to make the more expensive product. Is the increased price worth the increased work for these budding business owners?
In addition, your kids can learn that choosing a popular spot on a hot day will increase their sales, as opposed to setting up shop on a quiet street on a cooler day.
The one caveat about lemonade stands is the potential legal aspect of this kind of business. There are laws in many parts of the country that prohibit these kinds of sidewalk businesses without a permit, even when such businesses are run by adorable 10-year-olds. Help your child research the local laws before she sets up shop.
2. Investment club
Have your older kids form an investment club together. This club will invest a hypothetical $1,000 in whatever stocks the kids decide on together. Encourage them to choose stocks from companies that they already have a relationship with, like McDonald’s, Facebook, Disney, Coca-Cola, Nike, Apple, or Microsoft. Remind them of what Warren Buffett says: Invest in what you understand. Their understanding of these brands will make them better investors than if they try to just pick something they are unfamiliar with.
Once they have “invested” their money, ask them to provide a weekly report on how their investments are doing. They will need to track the prices of their stocks and record those prices, which means they will learn how to look up stock information online. They can even make charts plotting the movement of their stock choices, so that they can have a good visualization of what their money is doing.
This project will help to encourage them to think of investing as something that anyone can do, even a kid, and can get them excited about potentially investing some of their real allowance money rather than spending it on Legos. (See also: 10 Investing Lessons You Must Teach Your Kids)
3. Grocery store math
When you take your child with you to the grocery store, put him in charge of keeping track of how much you have spent. For each item that you place in the cart, ask your child to write down the cost, which he will add to a running tally. Not only will this help him practice his math skills, but it will also give him an opportunity to do price comparisons, learn how pricing works for loose items like produce, and offer you a chance to talk about sales tax and how that affects your total at the cash register. (See also: 6 Fun Games That Teach Your Kids About Money)
4. Create a practice budget
One way of doing a practice budget is with a toy catalog. If you can’t find one in print, check online, as many retailers upload versions of their toy catalog digitally. Tell your kids they have $50 to “spend” in the catalog, and let them go through the pages circling or noting what they are interested in. Then, ask them to add up the costs of all the items they circled to see if they stayed within their budget. Depending on the age of your kids, this can be a tough exercise, since they may be overwhelmed with how much they want.
For younger kids, another practice budget exercise is to take them to a dollar store and give them $5 each to spend. While they will be able to pick out at least a few items each, they will need to do some important thinking about which things they want most. This will help them understand opportunity cost — buying one item means you have less money available to buy a different item.
Similarly, if you have an older kid who loves video games that offer in-app purchase upgrades, ask them to list the cost of all the upgrades they want. These types of purchases tend to be low dollar amounts, but they add up quickly — and asking your kid to do the math on how much all of the character upgrades will cost can be very eye-opening. (See also: How to Help Your Kid Build Their First Budget)
5. Save up for a trip to a theme park
Going to an amusement park is a great family outing, but such day trips can be expensive. Between the price of tickets, the cost for things like ride photos and other souvenirs, extras like face painting, and the high markup on food, a family can drop quite a lot of money in a single day at a theme park.
Have your kids plan the budget for your trip to their favorite amusement park. Ask them to research how much entrance tickets cost and if there are ways to lower those costs. For instance, there are often reduced rates for purchasing tickets online as compared to at the gate, and amusement parks will often pair up with major retailers or brands to offer promo codes to reduce rates even further.
Let the kids know how much of the trip you will pay for, and ask them to cover any extras. For instance, you might offer to pay for half the cost of the admission, and will help them pack food for the trip. The kids will have to cover the rest of the admission price, as well as any extras or food purchased on site. This will help them figure out the best ways to budget, and determine whether having Dippin’ Dots or a souvenir from the park is more important to them. (See also: 8 Affordable Amusement Parks That Are Just as Fun As Disney)
It’s summertime, and the money lessons are easy
This summer, help your kids learn how to make responsible choices with money. These fun activities will ensure they go back to school in the fall with a clearer understanding of economics, budgeting, wants versus needs, and money management.