The holiday season is full of exciting adventures for you and your family. Whether you are traveling to visit friends and family or embracing the cold weather with ice skating, sledding, and delicious hot cocoa, families are enjoying the holidays in their own way. With all of the excitement, kids are also being exposed to the “Best New Toy” in advertisements and stores. Have you started to hear your child talk about everything they want this time of year? Are they throwing tantrums on that grocery store run when they see something they absolutely need?

Talking to children about the differences between a want and a need are very important this time of year. Not only are you teaching them about what we need to live, you are also helping them prepare to make proper financial decisions in their future.

  • Model positive behaviors in your daily life
    • Before you can talk to your child about wants vs. needs, it is important that you have a good understanding of the difference. Nowadays, the line can be slightly blurred- wanting that cup of coffee in the morning is one thing, but do we need that expensive espresso beverage from the local coffee shop? Take some time to think about the differences in your wants and needs and start to model that in your daily life. That being said, don’t forget to spoil yourself every once in a while- we all should enjoy the little things!
  • Start with the easy things
    • What are the main things we need to live? A place to sleep, clothes on your back, and food in your belly. Start there with your child. Express to them that everything else is secondary to those core needs. They will start to look at everything they own differently.
  • Shopping with your child
    • Start with a list. You can talk to your child about how everything on the list are things that you need. Anything else that you see in the store would be a want. This is a clear-cut way to show them what we do and do not need.
  • Talk about saving money
    • For young children, talking to them about finances can be hard. Children learn well from visual exercises. Choose something tangible on their “want” list, create a chart that shows children how much money they will need to buy that item, and work with your child to reach their goals. Children can start taking on household chores and small tasks as early as two years old.
  • Be willing to say “No”
    • Saying “No” is sometimes the easiest way to teach a child the differences between a want and a need. When children hear “no” they begin to understand what they really need.

Keeping examples and explanations age-appropriate can be the hardest part (other than those temper tantrums) of teaching your child about wants and needs. By continuing to model positive behaviors and talking to them frequently, your child will start to pick up on the differences between wants and needs.