Top 7 Gifts for Teaching Young Kids About Money

Last Updated Dec 9, 2010 12:45 PM EST

Gifts that help young people understand money will keep giving long after the wrapping paper has been discarded. For kids 13 and older look here. For kids under 13, here's a short list of ideas:

· Piggy bank There is no beating the time-tested piggy bank for very young kids who are starting to see money roll in from the Tooth Fairy, relatives on special days and parents paying allowance. Keeping their loot in one place and watching it build as they save and deplete as they spend is a great foundation for building financial know-how.

· Gift card Young kids are always spending money at places like the local toyshop, Starbucks and Borders. A gift card lets them experiment with plastic in a controlled way and begin to understand how to budget.

· Money games Kids learn best when they are having fun. The updated versions of board games like Monopoly and Life have cool electronic bankcards. Don't overlook online games and games like Burger Island for Wii and Money Mammals on DVD.

· Three jars If your youngster is graduating from the traditional piggy bank, move to a three-jar system. You can literally gift three jars (or cans or pottery or even cooler piggy banks) and mark them save, spend and share. The kids should divide future income among those jars and use the money accordingly. You can buy a pre-marked container at To make this really easy, do it online with an account at or Here are some other options.

· Kid-oriented mutual fund Expose your young child to investing in a way that will hold his or her interest. At the Monetta Young Investor Fund, kids get an age-based gift when they invest, and they can experiment on the fund's website with games that teach lessons about investing. The young investor fund has posted solid returns over the years.

· 529 plan OK, this one is for you -- at least if you expect to pay your kids' way through college down the road. But if your kids will be working or borrowing to pay for their higher education, opening a 529 college savings plan for them today may be the best gift they'll ever receive. Get started at

· Kiva account Part of growing into a responsible adult is learning the virtue of giving something back. At, you can open an account for your kids for as little as $25. They can search the site for small businesses in impoverished countries and choose where to loan their money.

·Photo courtesy Flickr user southpaw2305.
More on MoneyWatch:
· Top 7 Gifts for Teaching Older Kids About Money
· Board games with money lessons
· Online games with money lessons
· Look out for these gift cards
· Top 5 Money Lessons for Older Kids

  • 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.