Do you need it, or do you want it? That’s an important question to ask before buying anything. This activity is designed to teach kids how to prioritize their needs and wants, and how to make informed choices when shopping.
It’s important to teach our kids the difference between needs and wants so they can spend their money wisely later in life. When shopping, it can be tempting to make impulsive purchases. And while it can be nice to treat ourselves that way, those impulses can quickly strain our budget and prevent us from saving for bigger and more important purchases down the road.
Ages 5 to 8
Children will learn to:
- Distinguish between needs and wants
- Make informed purchasing decisions
- Paper (to print the activity template)
- Access to a printer
- Coloured pencils (optional)
1. Prepare the template
Download and print the activity template. You have the option of printing the coloured version or the black and white version to colour.
2. Organize the activity
- Have your kids cut out the cards and colour them if they want.
- Put the cards in a box or stack them up so that the kids can easily draw from them.
- Place the printed activity template in front of the kids.
3. Start the discussion
Before starting the activity, ask your kids what they think are wants and what are needs. This activity will help them better understand the two concepts.
- Needs are necessities
- First, there are needs that are essential for living. For example, we need to eat and drink to stay alive. We also need protection from danger and shelter from bad weather, which means we need a home and clothing.
- Since we live in a society, we need money to pay for our food, clothing and shelter. To earn money, we need a job. And to get a job, we first need to go to school.
- This makes education a need, and students need notebooks and pencils to learn.
- Not everyone’s needs are the same, depending on our individual circumstances. For example, some students can walk to school, while others need to take the bus.
- Wants are wishes
- Wants are things that can bring us joy but are not essential. In other words, we might be sad if we don’t get those things, but it won’t be the end of the world.
- For example, eating is a need, but eating candy is a want. Cakes and treats make us happy, but we don’t need them.
- Everyone has different wants. Someone might want fashionable clothes, while somebody else would rather go to the movies.
Have your kids put each card into one of the two categories on the activity template. Everybody’s situation is different—what is a need for your family might not be for the family next door. Discuss this with your kids and guide their thought process by asking open-ended questions:
- Do you really need it?
- Does our family need it?
- Is this something that would make you happy?
- Is there something that is more important to you? Is it important for your family?
- Keep the discussion going when you’re out shopping with your kids. Ask them questions like: Is this item a want or need? Do we really need it? Are there less expensive options?
- Talk about the family budget with your kids. Discuss the family’s needs and explain how much money can be available for wants, such as family outings. Explain that a budget should meet needs first, and that wants come second, if there is money left.
- Many things that bring us joy are free. Ask your kids what their favourite activities are. Here are some ideas: having dinner as a family, playing with friends, going on a stroll in the woods, or going to the playground, the beach or the library, etc. Taking care of our emotional well-being is also a need.
- Check out the following activities on our website: Avatar Market introduces children to budgeting, and The Economics of Suppertime shows them how to manage a budget in a real-life context.