Helping Kids Learn about Wants and Needs

Wants and NeedsIt all started when my five year old asked me if I would buy him a lightsaber. (Or, more accurately at the time, a ‘light-saver’). He didn’t know much about Star Wars, but because of the couple of books we’d borrowed from the library, plus playing with wonderful lightsabers at friend’s houses, he knew that these make-believe weapons were COOL.
Now, I have my own reasons for my sons to NOT have lightsabers. We have a reasonably small house, and I can’t see that getting two boys with long plastic toys play fighting together in our lounge room is going to ever work very well. So, because of my ‘no-lightsaber’ decision, I seized the teachable moment instead as we looked into some of the practicalities of this dream.

The first thing we did was to look up how much a lightsaber costs. I know that there are cheaper versions out there, but the one we found in our search was the deluxe $70 model. I explained to my children that we had a choice to make about how we spend our money – if we chose to buy a $70 lightsaber, we would need to miss out on food for three days. (Side note: I have been careful when talking about money with the kids, because I don’t want them to grow up thinking ‘we don’t have enough money’. In the scheme of things, we actually have more than enough. But what I did want to teach them is that we need to make choices about how we use our money, and there are wise choices and foolish choices.)

What we did next was write (actually, I drew pictures because the kids couldn’t read yet), on two pages titled ‘Wants’ and ‘Needs’. We talked about all the things we need: a house, food, clothes, school, electricity, a car, and we wrote these down. Then we talked about the things we want: lollies, treats, toys, light-sabres, holidays, etc.

I gave them each five sticky notes as pretend ‘money’ that they could use to buy things that we could want or need. They had to think about what was more important, and how they would allocate the ‘money’. I told them that this is what mummy and daddy do – we try to make wise choices about how we use our money, so that we can have all the things we need, and sometimes we save up enough to have the things we want, too.

This was a great lesson, and we stuck our pictures onto the wall so that we could refer back to whether something was a want or a need. This has helped start the discussions around money, so that as my boys grow older and receive pocket money they are able to start making decisions about the choices they have in spending their own money (and there’s material there for a whole other blog post!).

I encourage you to start (or continue) a conversation with your children about money. You can use every day moments like the one I described as teachable opportunities. You can also let your children participate in age-appropriate decision-making processes about how money is spent (for example, looking at grocery catalogues and choosing items for your list, or participating in a choice of where to stay on holidays). The money habits that our children learn from us, and their understanding of making choices about how to use money, is something that will equip them for life!

If you’ve got any thoughts or questions, I’d love to read your comments below.

Have a great week. xx

About The Author


Tanya lives in Canberra with her husband and two sons. She is passionate about helping women to live fulfilled, purposeful lives. She enjoys reading, cooking, craft and creating memorable moments for her family.


  • Kristy

    Reply Reply 25/05/2016

    Great activity to do. I am always trying to teach my kids about money and how they can’t have everything they want because of bills etc. I might try your activity and see if that helps them understand

    • Tanya

      Reply Reply 25/05/2016

      Great Kristy! It really helps them to see the ‘big picture’ of how you manage your money as a family! Let me know how you go!

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