We are fortunate that despite living in a rural area, we are less than five minutes from our local library. It's small, no doubt, but it offers many programs and has become our second home. This month the library had a guest teacher from our college extension come and teach basic economics to elementary children. My children made up half the class. I had my doubts as to whether or not my girls would enjoy the program, but it turns out they more than enjoyed it - they loved it.
The program was designed to teach big concepts to little people: income and expenses, budgeting wants and needs (er, um, I mean "creating a spending plan," which is apparently the new term for budgeting), saving money, giving money, the concepts of taxation, building interest, long-term savings for various goals, and ways to stay on track with your monetary plan. The children received hands-on tools to help visualize their spending plans, and listened to picture books (e.g., Pigs Will Be Pigs) that brought the concepts to life.
My girls and I talk about money and budgeting frequently, and my middle two are even learning about the economic cycle in MBtP, but this class really added something new to the mix. The best thing the girls are taking away (aside from the very cool digital, money-counting piggy bank) is the concept of dividing all income into categories. This isn't something new to my children - we routinely have them save 20-30% of all money they receive as a gift. However, my husband and I simply take the money for them and put in in their savings accounts. They have been to the bank and know where the money is going, but 99% of the time they don't come with us. In the class, the instructor had them use a simple version of the envelope method (which brought me back to the early days of my marriage). She had them label and decorate three envelopes: 10% for giving, 20% for saving, 70% for spending. It's a great way for kids to visualize the breakdown of their money. And my girls are already more inspired to find ways to save for the things on their wish lists!