We know they’re probably on many wish lists, but there are only so many Hatchimals and Nintendo Switches you can give to the kids in your life. So how about adding a few gifts that encourage friendly competition and sneak in lessons about money basics? If you’re looking for some educational gift alternatives — or you just want some options for family game night — consider putting these board games under the tree.
This fast-paced game gives kids a head start in planning and sticking to a budget — a challenge at any age, honestly. Players get $2,000 before each trip around the board, which may seem like a lot of money at first, but the trick is making it last. Landing on various squares can cost big bucks: An appliance repair can set you back hundreds, and so can hosting a friend’s birthday party or paying dental bills. Everyday expenses like rent, clothing, insurance and food pop up regularly, too. On the plus side, there are chances to make extra money, like through investments or collecting commissions. And if the player’s budget prediction is close to accurate, he or she can collect a bonus on their next spin around the board. At then end of the game, the player with the most accumulated wealth wins.
Recommended for grades 5 and up, $24, Toys “R” Us
This fun game helps kids make sense of cents (as in pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters). Players wind their way along a cartoon path, earning small sums of money by landing on squares labeled with entrepreneurial activities (running a lemonade stand earns 15 cents) or common household chores (setting the table is good for 31 cents). But there’s a trick to collecting the cha-ching: They must spin the spinner to learn which coins can or cannot be withdrawn from the bank. If the pointer lands on “no dimes,” for example, then they must collect their payout with a different combination of coins. Bonus money can be won at various points by making accurate coin exchanges. The player with the most money at the end wins.
Recommended for ages 7 and up, $13, Amazon
The Allowance Game
Talk about working hard for the money — this colorful and quick-moving board game makes that lesson clear to kids. Land on a square with a chore and you can earn some fast cash! But poor lifestyle choices can set you back big-time. For example, forget to do your homework and you’ll lose a turn at the game. Turning in your library books late will cost you fines, and if you accidentally break someone’s window, you’re expected to cough up the cash to replace it. There’s also a chance to make discretionary purchases, make change and handle money in other realistic ways. It’s a great way to illustrate that wealth isn’t the only ingredient to a balanced, well-lived life. An extra-large game board adds kid appeal and makes it easy for even small kids to play.
Recommended for ages 5 to 11, $17, Amazon
This game is a classic for a reason. Players learn the risks and rewards of investing in property, as well as the pain of paying expenses such as mortgages, utilities, taxes, parking tickets and more (even bail!). Of course, there are delightful windfalls now and then, too — unexpected inheritance, anyone? Among the many lessons Monopoly teaches is that wealth, poorly managed, can be shockingly fleeting, and that investments made wisely can pay back many times their original value over the years. It also demonstrates how fortunes can be built quickly through a combination of good judgment and excellent luck.
Recommended for ages 8 and up, $12, Walmart
The Game of Life
Real life is full of financial ups and downs, which is reflected in this family favorite. As players move their car tokens across the board from Start to Retirement, they’ll experience plenty of unexpected twists and turns, and have to make big choices along the way. Is it better to get a job straight out of high school and start making money as soon as possible, or is it worthwhile to put off a paycheck and go to college in order to get a more lucrative career? Either way, the repercussions will be felt far down the line. Spending is a major part of the game, too — vacations can turn out to be worth every penny, or may wind up as washed-out wastes of time. At the end of the game, everyone must pay their debts, and whoever has the most money left over wins.
Recommended for ages 8 and up, $12, Toys “R” Us
Interested in teaching your children about loans and interest? This is the game for you. Players can take out loans at any time in $100 increments, but have to pay 20% interest on the outstanding balance every time they land on the “Pay Day” square. That’s also the only time that savings accounts can be started or increased. Players receive a regular salary, but must pay off all their outstanding bills before they can use the remainder for anything else. There are opportunities to make deals on property and earn extra money, too. Whoever ends up with the biggest cash pile at the end is the winner. Bonus: This game lasts for just two laps and can take as little as 15 minutes to play, so it won’t stretch the patience of even the squirmiest kid.
Recommended for ages 8 and up, $8, Amazon