Most parents will agree it's tough to teach young kids about money. I've tried many times to convey financial lessons to my older daughter but she usually tunes me out after a few moments. But then I received a promotional copy of a new children's book, Pretty Penny Sets Up Shop, and found the storyline genuinely piqued my child's curiosity about dollars and cents.
Pretty Penny is a story about a six-year-old girl who wants to earn some money so she can throw her grandmother a surprise birthday party. The heroine decides to hold a rummage sale and manages to raise $10. That's enough for her to buy cupcakes for the festivities.
When I first leafed through the book, I knew my five-year-old would enjoy the sweet story. But I had my doubts that it would actually teach her anything about money or the value of a dollar. I also decided that I wouldn't try to push any lessons on her. I would read it to her once and if she liked it we could revisit it again.
To my surprise, my daughter has asked me to read Pretty Penny to her every night for the past two weeks. At first we just talked about the book's cute pets -- a lazy pig named Iggy and a sneaky cat Bo -- but then one evening it dawned on my little girl that this story is about a rummage sale. Completely out of the blue, my daughter wanted to know how to read price tags and why some items at a store cost more than others. She even asked how to count coins and bills, something I've been trying to explain to her for ages. It turns out that the discussion we had is exactly what Devon Kinch, the author, was trying to accomplish with her tale.
Here's another feature I like: there's a Pretty Penny website with a rummage sale starter kit you can download that includes blank price tags, signs and coupons so kids can play store at home. Maybe I'm being a bit optimistic but I love the idea that my daughter may actually practice some math skills as she pretends to ring up a customer at her own shop. Frankly, I would be thrilled if she even just fills out some price tags and practices making numbers and dollar signs.
Do I think Pretty Penny takes the place of instituting an allowance and teaching children to save money? Certainly not. But I do believe it could be a good conversation starter for mothers and fathers who are having trouble finding a way to engage their kids in financial lessons.
How do you teach your kids about money?
Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
Pretty Penny Sets Up Shop image courtesy of Random House.
More on CBS MoneyWatch:
Families: How to FInd a Great Neighborhood
iPhones and Kindles: How Low Will Prices Fall
Financial Gifts: Should There Be Strings Attached
The Internet: How To Spy On Your Teenager