You’ve heard it before: it’s never too early to start teaching kids about responsibility. Allowances, math classes, and explanations are all great tool to start with, but how do you teach kids about something as complex as interest?
The first step is breaking it down to something they already understand. Whether it’s as simple as how a tree grows bigger, or a more complex metaphor like how quickly frogs increase in a pond, the underlying principle of interest is percentages and growth.
Start by explaining why it’s important, and then explain how interest is calculated based on balances. For younger kids, consider staging Mischel’s marshmallow experiment: give a child a marshmallow and tell them that if they don’t eat it for ten minutes, they’ll get a second marshmallow. It’s a cossic way to teach delayed gratification and the concept of value increasing over time.
The most important part of the process is patience. Interest is a complex part of finance, and one some adults don’t fully understand. It’s more important to lay the groundwork than to explain every detail.
For a more long-term version of the marshmallow experiment, try using small candies and an old jar.
Repurpose an old jar or container to be an Interest Jar. Using candies like jelly beans, Skittles, or chocolates, add a few as a seed fund. Explain that you’ll add more candy every day, week, or other time period, based on interest. Choose a generous number that’s easy to calculate, like 10%, 25%, or 50%, and let your kid choose whether to eat the candy now or wait for it to grow. Even if kids don’t understand immediately, seeing the concept of “interest as growth” is a great starting place to discuss it again in the future.
Your turn: How have you taught interest and complex concepts toy our children? What helped? What didn’t?