Grandma Rie’s 2013 Money Camp – Part One

Teaching the next generation to successfully handle money and personal finances is normally a family responsibility. Although parents bear much of the burden to teach, train and model good personal finance, extended family members can also contribute.

Although my grown children do very well in the personal finance arena, they learned from us by osmosis, without any special or formal training by my spouse or I. When they presented me with grandchildren, I vowed that I would take an active part in teaching financial literacy to them.

As a result, I started a one week ‘Grandma Rie’s Money Camp’ in 2011 and held our third annual one this year.


The kids were 9 and almost 6 (going into 4th grade and kindergarten) this year in August when we held camp at our condo on the lake. I invited their other Grandma to come participate in money camp this year and she brought along a 9 year old granddaughter – the cousin of my two.

Although I originally planned for 8 days full of activities, I had to cut it to 4 ½ due to their Mom and Dad’s schedules. With a day and a half devoted to just fun, that really cut into our camp time – but it worked out ok.

With two grandmas we were able to have a split track. While one of us worked with the two 9 year olds, the other would focus on the 5 ¾ year old. That part worked great.

I decided to review concepts we touched on in prior years and try some initial assessments to see what they already knew. The more you can reinforce learning, the better it becomes ingrained in your child.

Money concepts.

To help them know what we were to cover or do each day, I pre-prepped a large poster to show each day of camp, along with words and pictures (the pre-kindergartner doesn’t read well yet) of concepts or activities for that day. As we sat at the table next to it, I let the kids look at it and say what we were going to do and then added to the description. I was pleased to see that over the course of the week all of them referred back to it to see what the plan for the day was each morning.

For the two 9 year olds I intended to introduce or cover:

  • Net worth
  • Expenses/profits/loss
  • Entrepreneurship

For the 5 ¾ year old I covered as a review:

  • Money uses
  • Money id and values

Shared learning money concepts – we engaged all three in activities related to these:

  • Assessments
  • Compound interest
  • Needs vs Wants
  • Earn and save

We started camp by passing out Kelly green “Grandma’s Money Camp” t-shirts. I explained that I was saving money by re-using last years shirts – as one of the concepts I wanted to stress this year was saving.

Then we read a book and played a game to review what we did last year. I made up a short book about What is Money Camp so that I could level set the new girl – the kid’s cousin, as well as remind my two of what we did last year. To get the other Grandma in participation mode, I asked her to read it aloud to all of us.

To review last years camp, I made up a game. In prior years I had tried just using a poster board with what we did and talking through it, but that didn’t work very well. The kids lost interest fast with me doing all the talking – and who can blame them!

This year, I brought along picture prints of them doing stuff in last years camp. The cousin handed out one picture at a time and we each said what we remembered about that activity. This worked fairly well – at least to hold their interest!

Compound interest activities.

The compound interest jar we did last year seemed to work well, so I used it again. On the first day of camp, I tried having their Dad introduce the subject of compound interest. He tried hard and knew exactly what he was talking about, but again, with him doing most of the talking the kids lost interest and became a bit attitudinal in the process. Once we got past that, we put our $2 seed money in the jar.

Each day of camp we counted the money in the jar, the 9 year olds figured out the interest but we let the 5 ¾ year old add the interest money to the jar, and then we wrote down the numbers.

We used a book Mr. Pompety Pompton and the Magic of Compound Interest to further explore the topic. It is a read it yourself book, but not a very good one. We tried taking turns reading the book out loud – sitting in a circle. The little one lost interest right away (no pictures, lots of words) and the two 9 year olds seemed to feel very self-conscious and weren’t very happy about the reading, so I wouldn’t recommend this book nor this method! The story line was very weak. It is about a full grown man, working in a bank, who keeps his money in a huge piggy bank. He finally fills it up and takes it to the bank to put it in a safe deposit box, but is convinced to use the ‘magic’ of compound interest and open an account instead.

Throughout the week, whenever we could, the grandmas slipped comments about compound interest into our conversations.

I also showed the two older children how to use an online compound interest calculator.  We used one from The Mint.

At the end of the week, on the last morning, we added interest to our jar one more time and the 9 year olds figured out how much ‘free’ money we got on the initial $2 investment. Then they figured out how to divide the money into 3 equal parts and I gave it to them.

Needs vs Wants.

This was another shared learning concept. We used a book “Do I need it or do I want it” – which one grandma read to the kids while the other prepared for a cut and glue activity. The book is fact based, not a story line and has large colorful pictures. The other Grandma did a great job of breaking up the reading to quiz the kids or get them to comment on the concepts.

For the activity, I bought a Sunday paper and took all the ads with me to the condo, along with scissors and several glue sticks and some colored paper I already had. Each kid got their own paper for needs and another for wants, then they looked through the ads and found pictures of each. As they did it, the grandmas kept a rolling discussion going about what the difference between the two is. I was kind of surprised that the 9 year olds seemed to really get into this one. I thought they would be too old to really enjoy it, but they seemed to.

We also used the movie ‘Over the Hedge’ as a learning tool about needs and wants. This cute movie is one of their favorites… about forest animals that learn to love human snacks. We set the movie up with a discussion, watched it with them, interjecting comments about needs or wants, then talked about it afterward.

For bedtime stories we read books highlighting needs vs wants – ‘Those Shoes‘ – about a boy who desperately wants a pair of the latest cool shoes, then finds he actually needs the warm boots his grandma bought for him instead. The book ‘Just Shopping with Mom’ was also used. It highlights bad kid behavior in the store – with the small child wanting and asking for lots of unneeded things.

We covered a lot and you readers have plenty else to do, so I will break this up into multiple posts so they don’t get too long!

What do you think of the money concepts I planned to cover this year?   

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