We spend an average of £259 on children’s presents at Christmas. Rather than wasting this money on plastic tat and the latest fad, why not buy gifts that teach children the value of money, instil good financial habits and create a nest egg for the future.
Sarah Coles at financial adviser Hargreaves Lansdown shares what to get and how it helps little ones get to grips with cash.
1. The Game of Life
Beware, this game has been updated with ‘action cards’, so it may not be ideal after Christmas lunch. However, the game helps children get to grips with the impact of their decisions on their finances. So, for example, they learn that studying can pay off in the long run with a better-paid job, and that the value of property can fall as well as rise. Amazon £16.49
Unsurprisingly there are seemingly endless money lessons to be learned from this game. It reveals the risks of going on a spending spree and leaving no emergency cash buffer. It highlights the importance of regular income, and when it comes down to trading properties, it teaches valuable negotiation skills. Amazon £14.99
3. Pop to the Shops
For the younger primary-school-age child, this is a handy game to help them get to grips with handling money and counting change. Amazon £7.26
For the child who couldn’t imagine completing numeracy and literacy challenges in their spare time, this is a brilliant way to improve not only their vocabulary and spelling, but also their ability to do fairly complex mental arithmetic at speed. Amazon £13.07
It’s not the most subtle lesson, but it can be a brilliant one for an older child with multiple demands. It helps them appreciate the importance of prioritising needs over wants. It also avoids the horror of spending a small fortune on an ungrateful child who complains they didn’t get the one thing they really wanted.
6. Cash – with strings attached
Some children find that money burns a hole in their pocket, so giving them cash teaches them nothing other than the joy of spending. If that is the case, you can give them money with strings attached. You could, for example, agree to double any money they choose to put into a savings account for a few months, or match anything they have left over by February 1st.
You can buy shares for the benefit of a child under 18 through a Junior ISA or bare trust. They might not be terribly excited by the prospect on Christmas Day, but you can soften the blow by choosing a company they have a connection with – like their favourite shop or tech firm. Alternatively, you can opt for a company that focuses on delivering dividends, so it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Whatever you choose, it’s a powerful way to teach them about the rewards of long-term investment.
8. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Among the many surprising things Harry learns around his 11th birthday, is that while he has spent his childhood wearing hand-me-downs and living in a cupboard under the stairs, he is actually rich. His financial decisions from there set a brilliant example to Potter fans. He doesn’t take too much from his pile of gold; he shares with his friends; he doesn’t rush out and buy the latest broomstick; and the presents he most cherishes are home-made. Amazon £7
9. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
It may seem like a book about a health and safety nightmare during a factory tour, but actually it’s about the consequences of indulging our worst instincts. It teaches children that unless they conquer their greed, materialism and gadget obsession they will end up sucked into a pipe, attacked by squirrels, or shrunk to an inch tall. In the real world, these risks may be slightly less prevalent, but overcoming these character flaws will save them from a lifetime of overspending and debt. Amazon £3.99
10. The Little Red Hen
This is the story of a hen who asks the lazy farm animals for help making bread, and receives none. Then when the bread is made, she has plenty of volunteers who offer to help her eat it, but she refuses. She points out that if they’d wanted to share the fruits of her labour, they should have helped earlier. Amazon 96p
For younger children, struggling to make the connection between the effort they put in and the rewards they reap, this is a brilliant tale. It’s also a welcome read for any parent who thinks that every once in a while, they ought to prioritise their own needs – and spend some money on their own savings and investments rather than funnelling every penny into meeting every desire of their children at Christmas.