Trade in those cash register games for kids for these books. Use the Mama talking points to prep your child for their first store transaction.
That first store transaction. You know, where your kid actually hands over money (perhaps their own, perhaps yours) to buy their very first item.
It’s exciting! It’s nerve-wracking!
And it’s also a key milestone in your child’s money development.
Because one day, Mama Bear, they’ll be making ALL the transactions in their life by themselves. And you want them to be prepared for that, right?
I’ve curated 9 money books to read your child in prep for their first store transaction. Also included are a few talking points for you to help associate what they’re reading with what they’re going to do eventually themselves.
Money Book #1: Sheep in a Shop, Nancy Shaw
Age Range: 2-3 years old
This is the perfect book to show your very young kiddo what the purpose of a store is for: to go with money with something specific in mind that you want to buy.
A group of sheep are on the mission to purchase a birthday gift. Unfortunately, they don’t have enough in their piggy bank for what they want to buy. So, they learn to barter for it!
Mama Talking Points to Extend the Money Lesson: The real money lesson here is that things in stores are not free. You can also discuss that saving up to buy something is best…or else you might have to barter something like your own fur! In other words, stores do not operate under a barter system anymore, and money is the means to pay for something.
Store Money Activity: For the next birthday-buying occasion in your household, walk your child through the process of buying a gift for someone either with their own money (if you’ve figured out an allowance for kids, or if they’ve figured out how to make money for a kids). Talk about how much money to spend for the gift (in relation to how much they have), then brainstorm several ideas with them before heading to the store. Once you get to the store, walk them through the process. Let them choose from the shelf something close to one of the brainstormed ideas, as well as price compare if there are similar items. Ask them if the item is under the agreed-upon budget. If not, look around for another item. Have them put the item up on the counter at the cashier, and if you’re ready for it, have them hand over the money. Walk them through accepting the change, getting a receipt, and picking up the bag.
Money Book #2: Bunny Money, Rosemary Wells
Age Range: 3-5 years
Bunnies Ruby and Max want to buy the perfect birthday gift for their grandmother: a beautiful music box with skating ballerinas. They’ve saved up their own money to do so, and head to the store for this one purpose. However, things start happening, and temptations arise that cost them some of their money. Also, they didn’t research the cost of what they wanted ahead of time, so they didn’t have enough money to buy it to begin with.
They end up making a pretty bad spending decision − purchasing glow-in-the-dark vampire fangs that cost them their bus ride fare home. In the end, they spend their last $0.25 calling their grandmother to come and pick them up.
Mama Talking Points to Extend the Money Lesson: Talk about why researching what you want to buy before you head to the store is a good idea (so that you can make sure you have enough money would be the most immediate one, as well as finding alternatives that are less expensive for when you can’t find what you had originally wanted). Another great lesson is to prioritize your spending for needs first (a bus ride for home), then wants. Otherwise you might get stuck somewhere!
Store Money Activity: Have your child go through each item the bunnies spent their money on, and tell you whether it was a want or a need. Let them defend their answers before telling them your answer.
Money Book #3: Paddy’s Payday, Alexandra Day
Age Range: 3-8 years
Wondering how to teach kids about spending money? A great introduction to the most common way for money to get into a person’s hands is a good place to start. Paddy is an Irish Terrier who performs for a living. It’s his payday, and he’s got a long list of ways to spend his money.
The message that I don’t like in this book is to spend, spend, spend on your payday.
Mama Talking Points to Extend the Money Lesson: With payday money, you need to spend money on both needs and wants. To truly get this lesson, you’d have to add that in, though, because Paddy seems to spend, spend, spend (without any remark on how he’s spending his paycheck away!). You could turn this around by opening a discussion about which of the things Paddy spends on that are needs versus wants. Think: Boston Cream donuts, haircut, movie ticket, dinner at a restaurant, a bouquet of flowers (Paddy’s on track to be poor before his next payday!).
Store Money Activity: Take a few minutes to discuss with your little one where you and/or your spouse work. Discuss some of the ways you use the money you get on payday to keep the household going, and which stores you make purchases from for needs for the household.
Money Book #4: Apple Farmer Annie, Monica Wellington
Age Range: 3-7 years
What I like about this book is that your child will start to get an idea of the process involved in the other side of a store: the supplier. This is through the farming process (psst: I get exhausted just thinking back to my cow-milking, hay-making, silo-filling days on the dairy farm where I grew up).
Annie, an orchard farmer, takes your child through (though in a really cursory way) how a product gets to market. From picking the apples, sorting them, producing sweet apple cider, applesauce, various baked goods, to actually selling the most beautiful of all of them at the farmer’s market.
Mama Talking Points to Extend the Money Lesson: When you grow your own food, you can keep some for yourself to munch on (or bake really yummy things with), and then you can sell the excess and make some money. This is also a great opener for discussing with your child your own job and how it enables you to earn money. Which you then spend on needs + wants for the household.
Store Money Activity: There are Annie’s recipes in the back. So, you could extend the study by picking your own apples (or making that the first store transaction for your child), sorting them, then making a recipe together with your child.
Money Book #5: Pigs Will Be Pigs, Amy Axelrod
Age Range: 5-8 years
The Pigs will be Pigs series, including this book, has been designed around the National Council of teachers of Mathematics’ Thirteen Standards.
But that’s not the fun part about this book (nor did that sound fun, right?).
This pig family has eaten through all their groceries from the morning (yes, pigs will be pigs!), and they’re hungry for a snack. The problem? There’s only a dollar between the lot of them. So, they go about hunting for money in all kinds of peculiar places around their home.
Then, they’re presented with a menu with prices, and so your child gets a chance at the end to figure out what else they could have bought from that menu.
Mama Talking Points to Extend the Money Lesson: Have your child add up their own pot of money (if they’ve got one) and see what they could afford on the menu, as if they were actually going to buy it.
Store Money Activity: At your family’s next restaurant visit, have your child choose something based on price. Give them a budget to work with, then ask them how many different combinations they can come up with from the menu and still stay under that budget.
Money Book #6: Follow the Money, Loreen Leedy
Age Range: 4-8 years
This book will give your child a great overview of money circulation + different ways that money can be used (like in a vending machine or as a donation).
Mama Talking Points to Extend the Money Lesson: There are a few calculations your kiddo is asked to make, such as how much change a customer should receive. Make sure they understand the concept of change after they do these calculations.
Store Money Activity: You can practice change-making with your child by setting up different-costing transactions, having them pay for these pretend transactions, then seeing if they change you gave them is correct. A change jar is really helpful for this exercise!
Money Book #7: Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday, Judith Viorst
Age Range: 4-8 years
In this book your child will see that Alexander used to be rich (and by rich, he means he used to have $1 his grandparents gave him) until he spent his money a bit foolishly. Honestly, what barely-out-of-a-car-seat-kid wouldn’t?
Mama Talking Points to Extend the Money Lesson: There are always “opportunities” to buy things with your money. But sometimes, they’re not opportunities at all. Like a one-eyed teddy bear.
Store Money Activity: Have your child identify what they think are “wants” that Alexander spent his money on. Now, add up how much each of these wants cost Alexander. How much money would he still have if he had not spent on all his wants? What else could he have done with that money? Your child can go through an exercise of identifying 5 of their own wants, then pricing them out to see how much it would cost them at a store.
Money Book #8: Jenny Found a Penny, Trudy Harris
Age Range: 5+ years
Jenny has her eyes set on purchasing something special (though you don’t find out what it is until the end). She needs a whole dollar, so she sets out to find all the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters she can. She also earns a dime from sweeping her grandfather’s porch and sidewalk − this is one determined gal! Unfortunately, she’s thrown for a loop at the cash register when she learns that not only does she have to save up for what she wants to buy, but also for the sales tax that is assessed on it.
Mama Talking Points to Extend the Money Lesson: Something you could talk about from this book is an alternative way to get that plastic piggy bank without her having to spend all her savings on it (such as making one from a two-liter soda bottle, or from a mason jar. Just look on Pinterest for ideas). Also, your child will be introduced to sales tax in this book, something that may well have confused them before (especially if they’ve paid attention to the price tag on an item + how it is always more at the register).
Store Money Activity: Discuss sales tax with your child, and the idea that it’s different in different states and areas. Look up the sales tax in your own area for reference. Are there any items that are not assessed a sales tax?
Money Book #9: Those Shoes, Maribeth Boelts
Age Range: 5-8 years
Whether we like to remember this happened to us as tweens/teens or not, there is a lot of peer pressure when it comes to having “cool” clothes. And often the “cool” clothes cost more than parents’ paychecks can support.
That’s why I like this book. A boy gets transfixed by the newest trend of shoes at his school. His jealousy is palpable. Unfortunately, his grandmother can only afford to get him shoes that he needs − winter boots.
Even worse, his own “everyday” shoes fall apart at school. A helpful guidance counselor gives him a pair to have, but they’re what’s considered “baby” shoes and he gets embarrassed.
What happens? He finds that the one boy who didn’t laugh at his “baby” shoes actually was worse off than him. When he actually finds the shoes of his dreams − albeit one size too small − from a thrift store, he ends up gifting them to this other boy.
Mama Talking Points to Extend the Money Lesson: Definitely discuss buying used versus buying new with your child. Also, point out how strong the grandmother was in unabashedly told him what they could and could not afford instead of racking up a charge she didn’t need on her credit card to satisfy a current trend.
Store Money Activity: Have your child talk to you about something that they want that they cannot currently afford. Then ask them to think about ways they could get what they wanted for less money so that they could afford it sooner. Give them some hints to help this exercise along, especially if they’re not used to finding discounts for items.
Cash register games for kids can only take your kid(dos) so far. From sales taxes, to getting change, and everything in between (like buying used), these books will prep your child for their first store transaction.