The 6 Best Online Games That Teach About Money

Last Updated Sep 24, 2010 4:46 PM EDT

What can playing football teach your kids about money? Not a great deal -- unless, that is, they are playing Financial Football, a new online game from Visa and the NFL with a super assist from Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees. Forget the screen pass. In this game, whether you score a touchdown or get thrown for a loss depends on how well you define a term like credit utilization ratio.

Play of any kind is invaluable; it helps kids develop life skills like teamwork, creativity and problem solving. Play is so critical to our development that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in 1989 formally recognized "play and recreational activities" as a right of every child.

The commission didn't have games about money specifically in mind. But the basic point is relevant: kids learn best when they are having fun. Board games that teach about money have been around for decades. Now, a slew of online games seeking to impart financial smarts are in the mix as well.

Financial Football is engaging. The game starts with official NFL theme music and a coin toss. You can play as your favorite team and choose from a variety of plays. The degree of difficulty of the play determines the degree of difficulty of the question.

I learned a few things. For example, I did not know you must be a U.S. citizen with a Social Security number to be the beneficiary of a 529 college savings plan. Ouch. Eight-yard loss. I also did not know that an initial fraud alert stays on your credit report just 90 days. Sacked!

Your kids won't spend weeks playing Financial Football; this isn't Halo. But they may play for an hour or two and gain a few precious kernels in the process. Here are a handful of other online games for all ages that teach money lessons:
  • Planet Orange Brave the desert, climb mountains and dodge alligators while you explore earning, spending, saving, and investing.
  • Reality Check What kind of lifestyle does your child want? Have them answer these questions for a reality check.
  • Bad Credit Hotel A one-night stay will help teach your kids to control their credit.
  • Celebrity Calamity This game helps players learn about debit and credit cards by managing a budget for a clueless celebrity.
  • The Great Piggy Bank Adventure Disney partnered with T. Rowe Price for this virtual board game, which lets you pick a goal and save for it by putting coins into piggy banks with different savings rates. At the end, break your bank to see if you made enough to reach your goal.
  • Practical Money Skills. This site hosts a number of addictive games that teach kids about money, including Financial Football.
Playing games like these now can help your kids from being thrown for a loss later. Ready, set, hike!

If you have a question about kids and money, I'll get the answer. Email me at dankadlec@dankadlec.com.

Photo courtesy Flickr user dbking
  • Dan Kadlec

    Daniel J. Kadlec is an author and journalist whose work appears regularly in Time and Money magazines. He is the former editor of Time’s Generations section, which was written and edited for boomers. Kadlec came to Time from USA Today, where he was the creator and author of the daily column Street Talk, which anchored the newspaper's business coverage. He has co-written three books, including, most recently, With Purpose: Going from Success to Significance in Work and Life. He has won a New York Press Club award and a National Headliner Award for columns on the economy and investing.

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