Teachable Moments at a Small Cost

Summer is here and it’s time for lots of family activities. With a little planning and a lot of fun, financial education can be packed into every weekend — without spending a lot of money.

When making family plans, heed this tip: Try to give yourself new experiences by visiting places you’ve never been or doing things you’ve never done.

Scott Oberkrom, director of community investments at American Century Investments and a regular contributor to www.YesYouCanOnline.info, has helped bring financial education to thousands of schools and families throughout the country. He offers the following ideas and teachable moments as a way to enjoy affordable activities that provide meaningful learning opportunities.

Going for the jump shot
If you’ve ever gone to a professional sports game, you know that the high cost of tickets, parking and refreshments can throw you for a loss. But come fall, high school games can give you more bang for your buck.

“In our community, the basketball court is the place to be on Friday night,” says Jim, father of a teenage son. “Everybody has a great time cheering the home team, and it only costs a few bucks for the whole family.”

Even grade schoolers can have fun making popcorn and other snacks to take along — or making signs to wave during the game. When you’re at the game, compare the cost of doing-it-yourself versus buying it already made.

Winging it
When you take up bird watching, you can see a world of wonder right outside your window no matter what time of year it is. Get a paperback reference manual and check the illustrations to identify the birds that visit your yard. To attract more varieties of birds and butterflies, make it a family project this fall to plant trees and the seeds for perennials. Your garden center can give you tips on what’s best to plant in your part of the country.

Kids can make simple, inexpensive feeders using bottle lids and wire. Poke holes in the lids and string the wire through. Then fill the lid with peanut butter and hang the feeder in a tree outside a window. Talk with them about recycling and the dollars you’re saving by creating your own feeders from materials you already have at home.

Cast votes for history
If you were a tourist in your own town, what museums and historical sites would you visit? Learn about your local history and find out what your area’s citizens have contributed to the fabric of the country. Admission fees are often nominal and you can also check to see if any free visiting hours are offered.

Urge your kids to collect brochures, ticket stubs and other mementos from each place they visit. They can also take their own photos of historic sites. Once home, they’ll have fun putting their keepsakes in a scrapbook or on a bulletin board in their room. Keep track of how much you spend during your trips. Have your kids create a score sheet that ranks which were the most fun and which were the most expensive. Compare to see if the most expensive were also the most fun. Talk with them about the value of an experience versus the amount it cost.

‘Bud’ it up
Across the country, trees and flowers are in bloom. Don’t miss the opportunity to spend an afternoon walking a nature trail or through a park or wooded area.

Urge your kids to gather some sticks, plants and leaves that have fallen. You might even consider taking digital pictures of what you find. Easy-to-follow guides in the library or on the Internet will show them what types of plants they are looking at. Then they can use the items they’ve collected to create unique artwork or greeting cards. The change in seasons is also a great time for young entrepreneurs to learn about earning money by helping neighbors with yard and garden clean-up chores.

For more information on family activities, visit www.YesYouCanOnline.info.