Create Family Financial Goals Using this Step-by-Step Plan

Creating your first of many family financial goals is easy with this step-by-step plan. This is a great way to teach your kids money goal setting (not to mention, bond)! #teamfamily.

Ready for a nerdy, Hallmark-channel-bonding activity to do with your family?

It’ll not only have you all working together as a team, but will also be teaching your kids one of THE most practical money skills out there – saving money.

Today I’m going to walk you through how to set up your first of many family financial goals: a family savings goal challenge.

Because let’s face it, what’s not to love about this?

Doing so…:

:: Gets the whole family involved, building your family identity as you all work towards one common goal to benefit everyone

:: Opens up the possibilities for your family to be able to afford to do something or buy something that you wouldn't normally be able to buy/do

:: Teaches your kid(dos) how to set financial goals and achieve them from start to finish (which will be teaching your kids to save money in general)

I thought you’d be on board! Let’s get started.

But first…

What are Family Goals?

In general, family goals are things you want to achieve together, as a family. The result of the work you all put in usually needs to be something that benefits everyone in the family. And the act of attempting the goal (or rather, the daily acts you all do to attempt to achieve the goal)? Well, it leads to a lot of bonding.

Specific Family Goals Examples

  • Start a family garden and use the veggies in at least 1 meal/week
  • Watch X hours less television per week
  • Make family date night 1X/week a priority
  • Get everyone to Disney World before they graduate high school
  • Attend church at least 2X/month
  • Update the family room to reflect the new ages of your kids/family needs
  • Choose a charity to donate to through going on family walks, like the Charity Miles app that I use ($0.10/mile is donated to my chosen charity — Wounded Warrior — and I'm up to 81.9 miles!), with a goal of X miles/month
  • Walk/run in a family race for charity
  • Start a family journey blog, and blog once a week to update progress towards a specific goal
  • Do a family detox day, with no tech (or specifically, no tech after school/after work) 1 day/week
  • You get the idea.

Family goals can really help establish family culture, work towards the vision you have as a family, and model good behaviors to your kids.

Which leads us too…

Why Would I Want to Set a Family Financial Goal?

I talk a lot about how to get your kiddo to set a savings goal and achieve it. I also talk a lot about how to get them to stay motivated, and how to get them to re-kickstart their savings goal after they lose interest…because let’s face it, savings goals can be difficult for adults, let alone kids who don't have the gift of long-term experience.

Since kids haven't had much savings experience, they might be really intimidated by the idea of setting a savings goal.

Not only that, but kids learn a lot from modeled behavior.

So instead of focusing on getting each of your kid(dos) to set their own savings goals and coaching them through the process, set a savings goal for the entire family – one that benefits each family member in some way so that they have a stake in it – to work together to meet.

Talk about an awesome way to illustrate some of the challenges and high points of setting a goal + actually seeing it through!

Step #1: Hold a Family Brainstorm Session

Remember that family financial goals should be something that each family member benefits from – in some way – so that they really buy into the process.

Start out with that in mind by hosting a family brainstorm session where you all get to come up with WHAT each of you thinks you should be/do/have as a family that you don’t currently.

No shutting down anyone here! Even if the suggestion is something crazy, like climbing Mt. Everest — you can filter these down and vote on a pre-selected list from the parents (that came from the options at this brainstorming session).

Parent veto is also legit!

Here's a List of Financial Goals to Help

I go into detail with lots of personal/adult money goals here, but let's list out family financial goals examples:

  • Amusement park day trip over next Spring Break
  • New video gaming system with two games meant for groups
  • Trip to the arcade with each kid getting to bring 1 friend
  • Taking a Thomas the Tank train ride
  • Murder Mystery Dinner family date night
  • Medieval Knights Dinner on your next vacation
  • Weekend Camping trip
  • Saving up to purchase a second, used family car (so that the to-be teens can eventually have a car to drive)

Step #2: Decide Where the Money is going to Accumulate

This opens up a great conversation about where to save money and why. Do your kids think the money should be saved in a mason jar? At the bank? Are they not sure where money is actually saved at, and why?

Talk to your kids about the unicorn-magic of money earning its own money, and how depositing the money into a savings account means that it will get you towards your goal faster than if it sits in a piggy bank in your home.

Bonus: have your kids research interest rates with you to find the biggest, and then open up a brand-new account with a snazzy name having to do with the goal.

Hint: if your kids are on the younger side, or haven’t been exposed to savings goals, then go ahead and save it in a centrally-located, see-through container so that they can keep their eyes on its growth. Now might be the perfect time to splurge on a really cool piggy bank for kids to get the kids more excited.   

Step #3: Research the Price

You’ve zeroed in on your family savings goal, and you know where the money is going to sit as it grows. So, how much is your target savings amount you’ll need to reach?

It’s time to do some cost research.

Let your kids help you put together the costs of this family savings goal. If there are different elements involved – such as a trip somewhere would take food costs, gas costs, and possibly a hotel – then you can divide and conquer with making each person or team the head of costing out one particular item.

This is also a great way to break the tie between two goals — have the family divide up to research the costs, come back with some digits, and see which one will cost less.

Step #4: Set Up a Central, Visual Savings Tracker

Setting up a visual tracker of how far you guys are towards your joint goal – and how much further you’ve got to go – is super motivational.

No matter which you choose from, just know that you’ll need to assign a money value to each component or space of it in order to update the tracker.

For example, if you choose a color-in tracker, then you take the cost of your family savings goal, and divide it by the number of spaces. Each time you save that amount, you then get to color in a space. So, if the cost of your family savings goal is $325, and you have 10 spaces, then each space is worth $32.50 ($325/10).

You can use any number of trackers to accomplish this, such as:

  • Amy’s Free Map: Amy runs this really cool site where she helps you visually track any goal you’re having. You can sign up for her free-mini course on achieving goals, and you get a 10-swirl heart map as a freebie. Let your kids take turns filling in the swirls as you smash your savings goal!
  • Make a Chain Link: Remember in elementary school (or perhaps, in your kids’ school today) when you get to create a long chain with construction paper links? Create one for your savings goal! Cut out a bunch of strips one family meeting and keep them in a jar. Kids can take turns updating the chain as each new mini-savings goal is met.
  • Savings Tracker Printables: I found several free savings tracker printables (scroll all the way down and download the savings tracker) here, and here.
  • Create an Image of it and Fill in Lines: You can get your kids to draw an image of what you’re all saving for, then fill in lines like Tina Rose did for her home savings goal.
  • Make a Lego Savings Creation: Put your kids in charge of creating a building or object out of their Legos as you get closer and closer to the goal. Each color of brick is worth a certain amount of money ($0.50, $1.00, $5.00, etc.), in proportion to how much the overall goal is.
  • Marble Run: Create a marble run with a mason jar at the end of it. Each time you guys add money to the jar, your kiddos get to drop a marble through it!

Make sure you keep it in a central location where each family member will see it each day.

Step #5: Decide Where the Money is Sourced From

You’re involving the whole family in this activity, and they all have a stake in it. So, how do you decide where the money will come from?

There are multiple ways to do this, each with their own pros and cons.

Choose what’s going to work for you guys (hint: you may not know until you try it out. Remember, you can always change things up mid-way thru, or on your next family savings goal round!).

Fund Your Savings Goal…:

  • Through Team-Events: You can fund the goal through team events where everyone plays a part, such as a yard sale (digitally or out in the front of your home), roadside farm stands (yep, my family and I did this growing up!), or entering family contests with cash prizes. The key here is that everyone needs to participate to earn the money, then all money goes towards the family goal.
  • Through Individual Funds: If your kids have access to funds – such as earning an allowance – then you could make it so that each person in the family needs to set aside a certain percentage of their money towards the goal. Remember to keep this amount small and in proportion to both your kids’ ages as well as their income level. For example, you wouldn’t put an 8-year old in charge of coming up with $250 right out the gate. Try $25, instead.
  • Through Cost-Saving Measures: Find substitutions for spending and give these options to the family to decide on. Then any money saved, goes towards the family goal. For example, it’s Friday night and you guys normally go out to eat. Offer to take the family out to eat, or tell the kids that you can stay home and eat, then put that $40-$60 towards the family goal. Put your kids in charge of finding coupons for the items on your grocery list. Any money saved at the end of the receipt then goes towards the family goal. Put a child in charge of finding the cheapest gas through GasBuddy.com. Figure out how many cents/gallon they saved you, multiply it by the number of gallons in your car, and add that to the family goal (bonus points if you have your kiddos do the math!). It’d be great to have a list of options the parents decide on beforehand, and a cost-savings attached to each that they’re willing to contribute to the family savings goal fund if everyone completes the challenge.

Step #6: Track, Report, and Re-Motivate

You’ll want to keep everyone updated with what’s working, what’s not, and how far along your efforts are getting you towards the goal.

Weekly family meetings, or bi-weekly, are ideal for this. Remember, your kids might lose interest quickly, and you want to keep them motivated to stay the course.

Don’t be afraid to talk about the failures as well as the successes, and open the floor to any new ideas people have to get their faster and/or get back on track!

Bonus Tip: Kids losing interest, or is it slow-going? Perhaps you’ll want to add in a mini-reward once you all meet a certain amount towards the goal to get everyone interested again. This could be something free but intensely fun, like a family sleep-out in the living room, or letting them have friends sleepover.

Step #7: Buy It!

You’ve made it here. The visual tracker indicates you’ve got all the money you need to go and actually buy the item or experience.

So, DO IT! Take your kids to the bank and withdraw the money. Make them part of the buying process as much as possible, such as actually having them complete the store transaction (will this be their first store transaction? Check out this post).

Keep everything celebratory. This is quite a momentous occasion not only for your kids, but for your entire family.

Step #8: Rinse and Repeat!

Hold a family meeting where you talk about the entire process. Ask your kids what they liked about the family savings goal, and what they didn’t. What would they have changed? Was it worth it?

Infuse some celebration into this family meeting.

Then decide if you’re going to create a new family goal to save for. Hey, why not?

Create family financial goals? YES -- one of the coolest ideas for family I've seen! I'd love to get my kids in on family goals to also teach them about how to save money. I'm always looking for ways to get our kids to save money, and family projects like this are so cool and doable. I can't wait! Family bonding ideas #familygoals #goalsetting #savingsplan

How to Save Up for An iPhone As A Kid

I’m going to show you the fastest way for how to save up for an iPhone as a kid — these tips will help with how to save up a lot of money as a kid.

So, your kid wants an iPhone.

And probably not just any iPhone; dancing around in your kiddo’s head – besides the sugar plums – are pictures of them playing with the latest and greatest iPhone.

You know, the one that is even newer than yours?

Don’t fret. If your child is wondering how to save up for an iPhone as a kid, then you’ve got a fantastic opportunity here.

You see, your child has an actual savings goal. And just ONE. This is amazing – they’re light years ahead of where many kids start with trying to save money for a bazillion things at once, then getting so frustrated with the lack of progress that they give up on everything and just settle on a fidget doo-dad at the checkout counter.

Pssst: Is your child struggling with how to save up money as a kid? One of their main problems is probably with narrowing all their wants down to just one savings goal. Here’s my one-page worksheet that will help them come up with the best savings goal for them right now. 

How Kids Can Save Up for an iPhone

Even if your child only has one goal, you (and your eager child) are probably still wondering how the heck a kid can save up a lot of money — enough to get an iPhone.

Let me walk you + your child through how to save up for an iPhone as a kid. And while we’re at it? We’ll turn this into a valuable money lesson they’ll remember for years.

Step #1: Get Your Parent’s Permission + Have a Talk About New Money Responsibilities

First off, your child will need to have your buy-in to this entire process (if you’re a kid reading this post, then definitely listen up!). Otherwise, they could save all this money up and be severely disappointed in the end.

Not only that, but you two need to have a money talk about what kinds of money responsibilities each of you will take on moving forward.

That’s because when your child figures out how to save pocket money to actually buy an iPhone – which they’ll be able to do if they follow the steps below – then there will be new money responsibilities.

Buying an iPhone is not like buying a shirt, where the maintenance cost is mainly once and done (unless it’s dry-clean only).

Buying a phone is a significant piece of property that has monthly recurring charges.

You need to answer questions like:

  • Who is going to pay for the data plan each month? Is that a child or parent money responsibility?
  • If the child currently has a phone plan, will adding a new iPhone to it incur higher fees? If so, who will cover the difference in costs?
  • Can this phone be added onto an existing family plan, or will the iPhone not work with your current family plan?
  • An iPhone is an expensive piece of property. Should your child have to also save up in order to protect it – for a cover so that it won’t crack (we all know how easily iPhones shatter!) and insurance to cover it in case of damage/loss/etc.? The Otterbox case is particularly known for its durability.
  • If the iPhone breaks, but you’re still under contract by phone, who is going to be responsible for replacing or repairing it?

Step #2: Create A Visual + Set Up A Savings Space

Visuals are everything when you’re trying to keep your eyes on the prize. They’re wonderful tools when keeping yourself motivated, especially for goals that are going to take awhile to accomplish.

So, the first thing I want you to do is to create a visual of the iPhone that you want.

Pssst: be sure to check out my video about one of my favorite goal setting tips for kids, where I use the iPhone as an example for creating a reverse-engineered vision board.

You can print out an image from the Apple store. You can snag an advertisement out of a catalog. Just get your hands on an image of the iPhone that you want – it’s color, it’s size, it’s shape, etc.

The second part to this prep work is to set up a savings space – you know, where you’re going to set aside the money for that iPhone. You want it to be somewhere where you won’t be tempted to touch the money, and where you won’t mix up the money you’ve designated for the iPhone to pay for something like going to the movies with friends on a Friday night.

You can use a piggy bank for kids; however, you might want to use a real savings account.

Step #3: Look At Your Current Money + Money Sources

You’ve got the visual of your goal, and your mother’s blessing for it. Great job! Now it’s time that we dig into some numbers and see how to save up for a phone as a kid.

You need to answer the following questions:

  • How much savings do you have right now?
  • How much of those savings are you willing to use towards the iPhone (versus spending it on something else)?
  • Where do you currently earn money from (this could be an allowance, chores you do around the house, a weekend job, or any number of ways)?
  • How much out of your current earnings can you set aside each pay cycle to put towards your savings goal?

Step #4: Comparison Shop To Price Your iPhone

Now we need to find out the price of your iPhone + upkeep costs. The amount we come up with here will be your Target Savings Goal Amount.

You’re going to do some comparison shopping to find the best estimated price for what this iPhone is going to cost you.

  • Go to an Apple store with your parents. How much will the iPhone model you want cost? If you can’t make it to the store, then give them a call and ask a sales associate.
  • Shop online for the same model. How much is the price online? (bonus: if there is a variation in price, why do you think that is)?
  • Now, search for a used version of this same model iPhone. How much will that cost? What is the price difference between the new version, and the used version?
  • Find out if there is any sort of warranty, certification, or guarantee with the used version. Can the used version be insured?
  • Discuss with your parents which version is better for you to buy – the new one, or the used one.

Once you’ve gone through these exercises and discussed with your parents, write down the total cost of the phone. Buuuuuuuut, this exercise doesn’t end there.

Remember that money responsibilities discussion you had above? You’ll need to add in any of the extra costs having an iPhone brings that your parents decided will be your responsibility.

Depending on the money responsibilities that will be yours, you’ll need to add in the following:

  • Purchase cost of a protective case.
  • Insurance cost (if this is monthly, then I would research the cost and add in 3 months of this expense into your target savings goal amount. This will give you a buffer to be able to cover this cost while you earn more money to pay for upcoming monthly insurance bills).
  • Monthly Data Plan: Again, if you’re responsible for this or for the difference in cost your new upgrade will cost your family, then I’d multiply the monthly cost by 3 and add in 3 months’ worth of the expense to give you ample time to earn money for your future monthly costs.

Step #5: Figure Out Your Target Purchase Date

You now have your Target Savings Goal amount (the total cost of what you need to get what you want), and you know how much you can set aside each week, every other week, or monthly towards this goal. It’s time to figure out how long it’s going to take for you to save up for it!

Your Target Purchase Date is the Target Savings Goal Amount divided by the amount you can set aside.

For example, if you’re buying a brand-new iPhone 6s, and you found out it will cost you $374.99 with Virgin Mobile (that is the actual price, fyi), and you know you can set aside $10/week, then you would divide $374.99 by 10. This tells you that it will take you 37.5 weeks to save up for your iPhone (that’s a little over 9 months).

One more example: if you can set aside $50/month, then you divide the $374.99 by 50, and you see that it’ll take you an estimated 7.5 months to save up for your iPhone.

Pssst: Are you a student? Here's an article I wrote on how to save money for students that will help you cut your expenses to the bone until you get that shiny new iPhone in your hands!

Step #6: Actually Make The Purchase

Alright, if you’re at this step, then you are one happy kiddo – you’ve saved up for that iPhone and today is the day that you actually get to make the purchase!

You’ll want to make the purchase online, or in store, whichever you chose when initially pricing the iPhone. You’ll likely need your parents’ help to drive you, use their credit card while you give them the cash amount, or have them write out a check on your behalf. You’ll also need their help to potentially add your new phone to an actual phone plan.

My last tip for you to do right before you make this purchase is to do one more scan of deals out there. It’s likely been weeks and months since you did your price comparison shopping, and it’s possible that there are online coupon codes, store deals, or new opportunities for you to shave some of the cost price off of the phone and use that money instead for another purpose.

On the flipside, it’s possible that the price actually went up since you did your research, and you don’t want to be caught off-guard at checkout.

Whew! Well, that’s all I’ve got for you. Follow those steps above and you’ll no longer have to wonder how to save up for an iPhone as a kid. Instead, you’ll be holding one in your hand!

My kid keeps asking me how to save up money for an iPhone as a kid, and I'm not sure what to tell him about setting money kid goals! This lady outlines an awesome savings plan for kids, and since learning how to save money is a teen life skill FOR SURE, I'm actually going to let my child save up for what they want. Ways to earn money for teens (that's what mine will be searching for next!). #kidsandparenting #savingsplan

Career Exploration for Students through Books

Career exploration books for students, middle school kids, teens, etc. that paint a more complete picture of what that career entails.

I set out to find the best career exploration books for kids out there.

Not the ones that paint rosy pictures about fantastical careers – like the life of an astronaut, video game tester, or President of the United States – but the books that also include tidbits about the not-so-pretty side of careers as well.

You know, the mistakes, missteps, frustrations, and failures that each of us adults have navigated in our own careers.

Like…

:: Dr. Seuss quitting art class because of his teacher wanting him to follow the rules – thank goodness he kept going!

:: Grace Hopper’s eventual boredom with repetitive computer programming work, which led her to create computer codes.

:: Rosie Revere’s Uncle laughing at her “silly” inventions.

:: Leland Melvin’s opening that manages kids’ expectations – just because you’re an astronaut, it doesn’t mean you ever get to go into space (who knew?).

Let me be clear: we’re not dashing dreams here. We are, however, adding an element of reality to them. Which is a good thing to do for career exploration for students.

But before we get into that, let's talk about what career exploration actually is, and why it's important.

What is Career Exploration?

Career exploration is dedicating some time for your child to learn about the types of careers and positions that they are naturally interested in, or where they naturally show talent in. It can include things like reading books from actual professionals in a career field (that's why you're here!), asking adults questions about types of jobs they're interested in, taking career interest assessments to see what jobs they could be good at or could be interested in, shadowing someone in their office, participating in a Take Your Child to Work Day (even if their parents are a small biz owner — here's my free playbook for setting up your own TYCD experience), etc.

Why is Career Exploration Important?

Do you remember wayyyyy back to the days when you thought you would be a fill-in-the-blank?

For me, this was a teacher. Then, it changed to being a writer.

Oddly enough, I'm now both (but I didn't start out that way — which is why I said “oddly” enough!).

These fields didn't just magically pop themselves into my head; they were vocations I was naturally interested + talented in.

For example, I used to play teacher at school, and was asked by many of my teachers over the years to help tutor other kids who were struggling to keep up. Also, from elementary school onwards, I would write little books that I'd staple together (the illustrations were terrible!).

But something happened in between childhood and my 30s, when I actually started working in both of these areas (teaching + writing). When I graduated college at 22, I took a job in marketing + sales. Then I moved to being an environmental investigator.

I'm not saying either of these careers were bad, but they weren't the ones. Imagine if I had done a bit more career exploration in my pre-teens and teens and figured out that, in fact, writing and teaching others about money was really what I was put on this earth to do?

The point I'm trying to make is that career exploration is an extremely important thing to do as a child, pre-teen, and teenager (and, yeah, adults can do it as well!). The earlier you can get your child started looking down the paths of various career fields, the better for them.

Career Exploration for Students and Kids

Now, onto some books that will help with this process.

Note: I’ve personally read each of these books and give my honest reviews/opinions below.

Book #1: Baby’s Big World: Chemistry, Veronica L. Murphy, 1-3 years
Career Path: scientist, chemist

Why not get started this early? In this cutely illustrated book, your youngin’ is introduced to chemistry. Elements are like “crayons in a box”, and the elements table is like a “crayon box.” Your kid might start to see their world as little tiny elements while reading this.

Book #2: The Most Magnificent Thing, Ashley Spires, 3-7 years
Career Path: Inventor, entrepreneur, tinkerer (hey, that’s a job, right?), problem solver

I chose specific career titles for this book; however, you should know that it’s probably a great foundation to read for any career. Why is that? Because even though this little lady is trying to invent something, what happens during her many iterations happens to all of us in life – mistakes, missteps, frustrations, failures.

I love how the author seamlessly weaves in the lesson that out of many failures come lessons and things you learn that will ultimately shape the final product, whatever that product may be.

Book #3: Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat, Judy Sierra, 3-7 years
Career Path: writer, illustrator, book publisher, book agent

I love how this book starts off explaining how The Cat in the Hat came to be by explaining an unmet need: first graders weren’t making the leap from reading just a few words to reading a whole book.

Adults figured out that kids needed fun kid-beginner books to get them interested.

At this point, Dr. Seuss had already published 9 books. So, a man commissioned him to write and illustrate a first-grade reader book using specific words – 236 of them to be exact.

The book then follows the creative process of, well, writing a book. It’s quite creative!

Book #4: Ada Lovelace: Poet of Science, Diane Stanley, 4-8 years
Career Path: scientist, creator, mathematician

Ada Byron was a super-creative kid who dreamed of steam-powered flying horses. Her over-excitedness and big imagination came from her father, Lord Byron, a famous poet whom she never met. Her mother, on the other hand, was a math and scientist (their marriage apparently lasted 1 year).

Her mother decided to ground her in a strict scientific education, which turned out to be great training paired with her wonderful imagination.

One day Ada’s mother takes her to tour a factory where she finds the mechanical loom. From this machine, she gets her big idea to use punch cards to tell machine to do things. Then several years later she forms a friendship with scientist Charles Babbage.

Follow along this beautiful book on her journey as she writes the first programming code.

Book #5: What Do You Do with a Problem?, Kobi Yamada, 4-8 years
Career Path: business wo(man), entrepreneur, inventor, marketer

All businesses exist because they solve a problem. First, they find a problem, or perhaps stumble into it, and then they see that it is actually an opportunity to make something, offer something, do something, that will make the problem go away.

This book is all about not being scared by problems or worried by them, but facing them dead on and seeing them for the opportunity that they really are.

Book #6: Shark Lady, Jess Keating, 4-8 years
Career Path: Scientist, oceanographer, biologist

Your child can follow oceanographer Eugenie Clark’s career exploration journey as she followed her hunch + passions about studying sharks and the ocean. From trips to the aquarium and free diving in the Atlantic Ocean to Research Missions, she was determined to show others that sharks are not just mindless killing machines.

Book #7: Margaret and the Moon, Dean Robbins, 4-8 years
Career Path: engineer, software/coding, computers, astronaut, scientist

Margaret was a very curious young girl. She asked questions about all sorts of things, and eventually went into computer programming. This led her to become director of software programming for NASA’s Project, Apollo, which included missions Apollo 8, Apollo 9, Apollo 10, and then Apollo 11. And it was her code that helped with a small glitch during the landing as well.

Book #8: Charles Darwin’s Around-the-World Adventure, Jennifer Thermes, 5-7 years
Career Path: Explorer, Adventure, Biologist, Scientist, Anthropologist, Archaeologist

I love the way this book approaches scientific hypotheses Charles had to his explorations. It all flows well so that future scientists can see how everything just sort of ties together in life.

Book #9: Iggy Peck, Architect, Andrea Beaty, 5+ years
Career Path: Architect, Engineer, Construction

Iggy Peck just loooovvveeesss to build things. He wants to build with his hands all day long, even after meeting his 2nd grade teacher who is hugely against buildings (as a matter of course).

What I love about this book is that it shows kids their interests and work has real meaning and can make a difference/fill a need in people’s lives. Isn’t that what we all want to do when we “grow up”?

Book #10: Grace Hopper Queen of Computer Code, Laurie Wallmark, 5+ years
Career Path: Video game maker, inventor, creator, tech, innovator, computers

While pulling a late-nighter writing code, Grace realizes that not only does she tend to write the same code over and over again into her programs…but she dislikes redoing the same work repeatedly.

I like how this book details some of the non-glamorous sides to tech work (and I would understand these a bit, as my husband works in computers): late nights, repetitive work, broken down machines with lots of pressure to get them back up running (specifically if you’re working for the Navy!), etc.

It’s also great for showing your child how maintaining an imagination throughout childhood and adulthood is beneficial in everything you do.

Book #11: Rosie Revere, Engineer, Andrea Beaty, 5-7 years
Career Path: engineer, entrepreneur, creator, inventor

Rosie loves to build things out of all sorts of ‘throwaways’. But one day her Uncle laughed at one of her inventions – a hat to keep snakes away (he was a zookeeper, after all) – so she became shy about sharing her inventions. It’s her grandmother who eventually teaches her that great flops are necessary on the path to great success.

Book #12: My Journey to the Stars, Scott Kelly,5-8 years
Career Path: astronaut, engineer

Scott and his twin, Mark, both became astronauts with NASA.

What I like about this book is that it starts out with a child (Scott) who didn’t quite know what he wanted to be when he grew up.

Until he found a book (ha! Go figure). Then he knew he wanted to be a test pilot. The book then breaks down, step by step, how he achieved his goal.

While he and his brother never actually flew in space together, they both flew on several missions. And probably their most important help with NASA? Since they’re twins with the same biologic makeup, they can test how their body changes in both space and on earth at the same time. One twin (Scott) spent an entire year in space while the other stayed on earth so that they could test the effects on the body and eventually get astronauts out into space for longer missions (like to Mars).

Book #13: The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Be Dr. Seuss, Kathleen Krull, 5-9 years
Career Path: Writer, cartoonist

Your child can read along as Ted Geisel becomes Dr. Seuss. Through being fascinated by zoo tales his father talks about at the dinner tables, and the comic strips he gets from his father’s newspapers, and quitting art class because the teacher expected him to follow rules (ha! What Dr. Seuss book ever follows “rules”?).

His mother was even totally cool with him drawing on his walls.

Book #14: One Giant Leap, Robert Burleigh, 6-8 years
Career Path: astronaut, scientist

I love the art in this book, which helps tell the story of the first lunar landing. While they start off with the historic, magical event in those moments when mankind first stood on the moon in front of millions of viewers at home, this book then takes a (small) twist to show the behind-the-scenes troubles these two astronauts faced. In other words, the not-so-glamorous side to astronaut-ing!

Book #15: Radiant Child, Javaka Steptoe, 6-9 years
Career Path: artist, writer

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a cultural phenomenon in the 1980s as an artist. This book discusses not only his strong pull towards art as a child, but how he listens and answers that pull by drawing morning, noon, and night.

At museums his mother takes him to, they not only look at the works of art, but they read about how the artist made the piece so that Jean-Michel leans how to actually become an artist.

I love how this story takes Jean-Michel as a child with a passion, then follows that through to how he actually made a career from it. From his home to NYC, from spray painting art on walls, to museum galleries.

And his mother? Encouraged him greatly not only with her style/stylish home and taking him to museums, but by sitting on the flood next to him and drawing on his father’s old work papers.

By the way, the artwork in this book? It’s beautiful.

Book #16: The Quest for Z, Greg Pizzoli, 7-10 years
Career Path: Explorer, Adventure, Biologist, Scientist, Anthropologist, Archaeologist

British Explorer Percy Fawcett came from a family with adventure in their blood. His father was a member of the Royal Geographical Society, and Percy followed suit in his 20s. Calling a “blank spot” on a map in the jungles of Brazil the Lost City of Z, he was determined to find out what was there.

Which took him over 21 years to find!

The book follows his career path, sewn together by expeditions he goes on, what he packs for it, encounters and troubles he comes across, as well as briefly touching on finding funding for his quest.

P.S. I love the art in this book!

Book #17: Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, Chris Barton, 7-10 years
Career Path: Inventor, creator, toy-maker

The author does a great job of taking your kid through the ups and downs of an inventor’s career through an invention they’ll be highly interested in: the Super Soaker.

Lonnie Johnson actually stumbled into the invention by accident while working on some plumbing. But he had been an inventor and creator his whole life. His parents were very lenient on allowing him to mess with things as a kid, even though they had hardly any space with a boatload of kids in their mobile home.

I like that this book goes through the troubles Lonnie, and other inventors, can face. For Lonnie, he actually took a test telling him that he wasn’t going to be a good engineer. Boy was that proven wrong! At one point, Lonnie even quits his job, though it doesn’t pan out for a while. Of course, once he found a toy company to latch onto his idea, he was good to go.  

Book #18: When I Grow Up I’ll Be a Veterinarian, Connie Colwell Miller, 8-12 years
Career Path: (you guessed it) Veterinarian

The little girl in this book plays Dr. Thomas with her friend, Julia. What I like about the play is that it includes cool-sounding Veterinarian things – playing with animals, helping owners understand how to care for their pets – and the not so cool-sounding things such as giving vaccines and being on-call after leaving the office in case there is an emergency.

Book #19: Gifted Hands, Gregg Lewis, 8-12 years
Career Path: Doctor, medicine, nurse, surgeon, missionary

Ben Carson is a remarkable man. And his mother? Is quite remarkable herself. She went through great adversity during his childhood, starting with marrying out of the foster care system at the age of 13, then having the strength to raise her boys on her own after finding out her husband had another family.

What is most striking about her is her faith in God, hard work ethic, and ability to see that turning off the television (despite other people telling her she was crazy) and making her children lifetime lovers of reading.

Books, tempering his anger, his steadfast faith in God, and a mother who told him, “if you ask the Lord for something and believe he will do it, it will happen…” are all the reasons why Carson became a top neurosurgeon.

This book details some of the parts of being a neurosurgeon (or surgeon, for that matter) that are both glamorous and not, such as hugely complicated and long-lasting surgeries without much sleep, lots of schooling, tons of hard work, and life satisfaction.

Book #20: Chasing Space, Leland Melvin, 8-12 years
Career Path: Astronaut, Engineer

I love how within the first three paragraphs of this book, it clarifies something for a child looking to become an astronaut, “just because you’re an astronaut doesn’t mean you ever get to go into space. To go into space, you need to get assigned to a flight. It’s the last step in a journey that can take a lifetime. And not all astronauts walk in space. Some command or pilot the spacecraft. Others are mission specialists who do scientific experiments or work the shuttle’s robotic arm.” And of course he outlines all of the other jobs you can have at NASA without actually being an astronaut, such as computer technicians, lawyers, and nutritionists.

This book also touches on the application process to becoming an actual astronaut, with Melvin’s own 1998 class of 25 astronauts being chosen from 2,500 applications. They test your eye sight, your character, claustrophobia, psychological tests, etc. It’s quite rigorous. Then once you’re in your astronaut class? All kinds of training you have to go through like land survivalist and water survivalist training, and becoming a pilot of NASA’s T-38 jet.

Melvin also had to “trace the path” of his candidacy. In other words, tell them when he first knew he wanted to be an astronaut. What’s interesting is that he also had briefly played in the NFL, dreamed of being a tennis player as a child, and thought he’d work for DuPont or other chemical company. So, the path was not necessarily a straight one, which is so often the case for our careers (right?!).

This book also talks about Melvin’s struggles with racism growing up in the 1970s, and how this helped shape his aspirations.

Finally, in the back of the book are several really neat, STEM-inspired experiments for your budding engineer to do at home. The same kinds Melvin did when he was a kid!

Book #21: Steve Jobs: Thinking Differently, Patricia Lakin, 8-12 years
Career Path: Inventor, creator, tech, innovator, computers

Is your kiddo interested in inventors, creative thinkers, and/or technology buffs? Steve Jobs embodies each of these, plus more. Honestly, he’s a very quirky guy who has made some questionable choices, some of which are discussed in the book and others are not.

But what is great about this book from a career exploration viewpoint is showing the emerging of a brand-new industry and how one man tagged onto it, then led it.

Being an entrepreneur and pioneer is not all rainbows and unicorns. This book does not put a happy face on everything, and points out the struggles along the way as well. Such as working on dining room tables and in garages, making decisions that take entire decades to actually pay off, and creating a company that eventually kicks you out of it.

The talk about creating the first Apple computer and subsequent iterations I even found fascinating, and I’m not a tech-gal.

What I also loved about this book is how true Steve Jobs stayed to himself, and how curious he was. It weaves together his different interests – such as a calligraphy class taught by a former monk, and India – quite nicely into a fabric of influence that helped Apple emerge as the company + collection of products we know today.

Heads up: Jobs was a college dropout. He found it boring.

Book #22: The Finest Hours, Michael J. Tougias & Casey Sherman, 13+ years
Career Path: firefighter, policeman, coast guard, military, captain, rescue worker

I was entranced by this book. It’s an account of an actual situation in which two oil tankers near Cape Cod broke into two during a Nor’easter.

I mean…can you imagine? I get a chill just thinking about how bitterly cold this expedition was!

The book chronicles the nothing-short-of-heroic efforts of four coast guardsmen as they figure out how to get out to these sailors and save their lives.

As far as career exploration, I like how the author outlines a few of the coast guards’ individual pathways to actually getting into the guard. For example, Bernie who joined the WWII efforts in the U.S. Maritime Service and served on a merchant ship in the South Pacific. Then he enlisted in the Coast Guard. All this was after he was somewhat forced into ministry schooling but decided it was completely not for him.

Career exploration for students and my kids! My child has all kinds of crazy ideas about what they want to be when they grow up. We’re looking at career exploration in middle school, and I want educational resources for our tween / preteen. As part of career exploration activities for kids, I want our son to read inspiring books for preteens from actual professionals in different fields. I love how this woman breaks it down by ages, and career fields. #booksforkids #careers #kidsbooks