Ordinary Trip to the Grocery Store with Your Kid? Explain as You Go

Today’s guest post comes from Laura Schlachtmeyer at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), with suggestions on how to help your child develop money management and math skills.

We all know our kids are always watching and learning (even when we wish they weren’t). This applies to the way you use and manage money as well. Every day, you make decisions about money that might not be visible to your kids. For example, they may not know that you set a budget for the grocery store—and that’s why you didn’t get them that box of fruit snacks.

Next time you’re at the store, try something new: Think out loud and talk through what you’re doing.This helps your children see how you think about spending and helps them understand your decisions.

Here are three steps to turn your next shopping trip into a chance for your children to build their money skills.

  1. Make Your Shopping List Together

Making a shopping list might be a silent activity for you—you sit down at the table with pen and paper, or you open an app, and list what you need. Next time try talking through your list with your kids.

“I see we’re getting low on peanut butter, which we’ll need to make sandwiches for the week. I’ll also write down eggs and milk, which I buy every week since we use them to make breakfast and other recipes.”

You can also ask your kids to help you make the list. Let them check the cabinets or think about what things they use each week.

This is a perfect opportunity to introduce the idea of a budget. Spending can be invisible or mysterious to kids—they make up the rules if they aren’t told what they are. Talk about how you need to keep track of how much you spend on groceries so that you have enough money for other things, such as gas or the cable bill. Explain that making a list helps make sure you don’t buy things you don’t need and overspend, even if that means having to cut back on a few extra things you want.

  1. Talk as You Shop

When you’re at the store, it’s time to talk. You likely already know which brands you like to buy or whether you’ll decide to purchase something if it’s on sale. Maybe you even choose which grocery store you go to based on its prices, what you need that day, or the coupons you have. Instead of just bringing your kids along for the ride, share your reasoning with them. At the store, each item you put in your cart is a chance to tell your kids why you’re buying it instead of a similar item at a different price point.

Older children can help you comparison shop and find ways to save by choosing a different brand or quantity. This is also a chance to explain why you may purchase things even if they’re the more expensive option.

“I see that this other soup brand is cheaper but it’s worth it to me to spend an extra 50 cents on this one, because we all like it better. Let’s try to find another item where we can save 50 cents, to make up the difference.”

As you shop, you can refer back to your budget. If your child asks for something not on the list, you can work together to evaluate if it’s okay to purchase. Maybe the item is on sale, or you have a coupon. Other times, you may need to wait to buy something.

  1. Explain Your Purchase

As you approach the cash register, you might have a running total of the cost in your head so you aren’t surprised by the amount. What if instead you did the math out loud so your kids can hear?

“I think our total will be about $50—I rounded up each item a little bit in my head and added it up as we shopped. Let’s use the debit card since I don’t have enough cash with me. The debit card subtracts the money from our bank account right away.”

If you have young children, it may not be obvious that you’re trading money for the items in your cart—especially if they don’t see you use cash. Discussing the decision-making process helps your kids understand that even if you’re just swiping a card, you’re spending money you’ve earned on these groceries.

You can also discuss whether you stayed within your budget, or why you needed to spend a little extra during this trip.

When you think out loud, you clarify what you’re doing and why. Whether you’re at the grocery store, paying bills, or online shopping with your kids, get into the habit of thinking out loud during your day-to-day money and time management activities so they can follow along.

Ways to Keep Talking

Check out some of our tools and resources for more ways to keep the conversation going:

  • What’s on a receipt: Show your child how you estimate the price you’ll pay at the register and practice rounding up to include sales tax.
  • Pretend play: Explain what different people do at the grocery store—cashiers and customers—and play out different scenarios.
  • Conversation starters: Learn how to talk to your kids in early childhood, middle childhood, and teen years.

You can also join our challenge to try one new thing to grow your child’s money skills.

School Bus Safety Tips

As kids head back to school, it’s a good time to give them a quick refresher on school bus safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulates school bus safety and notes that children are far safer riding on a school bus than they are in the family car. The following information is from the NHTSA.

Bus Safety

Students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car. That’s because school buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road; they’re designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries; and in every State, stop-arm laws protect children from other motorists.

  • Different by Design:School buses are designed so that they’re highly visible and include safety features such as flashing red lights, cross-view mirrors and stop-sign arms. They also include protective seating, high crush standards and rollover protection features.
  • Protected by the Law:Laws protect students who are getting off and on a school bus by making it illegal for drivers to pass a school bus while dropping off or picking up passengers, regardless of the direction of approach.

Seat Belts on School Buses

Seat belts have been required on passenger cars since 1968; and 49 States and the District of Columbia have enacted laws requiring the use of seat belts in passenger cars and light trucks. There is no question that seat belts play an important role in keeping passengers safe in these vehicles. But school buses are different by design, including a different kind of safety restraint system that works extremely well.

Large school buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than passenger cars and light trucks do. Because of these differences, bus passengers experience much less crash force than those in passenger cars, light trucks and vans.

NHTSA decided the best way to provide crash protection to passengers of large school buses is through a concept called “compartmentalization.” This requires that the interior of large buses protect children without them needing to buckle up. Through compartmentalization, children are protected from crashes by strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.

Small school buses (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less) must be equipped with lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions. Since the sizes and weights of small school buses are closer to those of passenger cars and trucks, seat belts in those vehicles are necessary to provide occupant protection.

Bus Stop Safety

The greatest risk to your child is not riding a bus, but approaching or leaving one. Before your child goes back to school or starts school for the first time, it’s important for you and your child to know traffic safety rules. Teach your child to follow these practices to make school bus transportation safer.

For Parents

Safety Starts at the Bus Stop:Your child should arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. Visit the bus stop and show your child where to wait for the bus: at least three giant steps (six feet) away from the curb. Remind your child that the bus stop is not a place to run or play.

Get On and Off Safely:When the school bus arrives, your child should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, the door opens, and the driver says it’s okay before approaching the bus door. Your child should use the handrails to avoid falling.

Use Caution Around the Bus:Your child should never walk behind a school bus. If your child must cross the street in front of the bus, tell him/her to walk on a sidewalk or along the side of the street to a place at least five giant steps (10 feet) in front of the bus before crossing. Your child should also make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing to make sure the driver can see him/her. If your child drops something near the school bus, like a ball or book, the safest thing is for your child to tell the bus driver right away. Your child should not try to pick up the item, because the driver might not be able to see him/her.

For Drivers

Make school bus transportation safer for everyone by following these practices:

  • When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.
  • When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school, but may not be thinking of getting there safely.
  • Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in neighborhood.
  • Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops.
  • Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
  • Learn and obey the school bus laws in your State, as well as the “flashing signal light system” that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions:
    • Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
    • Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.

Picture courtesy of Wkimedia Commonsunder Creative Commons license.

Give Your Child a Quick Readiness Check for This School Year

Surveys show that 90% of parents believe their child is performing at or above grade level. However, their teachers indicate that only 39% of students start the school year prepared for grade-level work, and other indicators such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) agree with them. Learning Heroes has created a quick readiness check for families to help them assess if their child has mastered their previous year’s math and reading skills.

The readiness check provides three to five questions for students who completed kindergarten through eighth grade last school year in both math and reading. The results give you a quick assessment of whether your child is ready for the coming school year and where your child may need some extra support getting back up to speed. You can also use Learning Heroes’ Super 5 and Readiness Roadmap to help you find resources to support your child at home.

Help Deciphering What Your Teen is Saying

Just about everyone’s grandmother even understands that LOL is “laugh out loud” and OMG is “Oh my God,” but teen slang continues to grow and change, so here are some places you can go to decipher what you overhear your teen talking about with their squad.

If there’s something new that you can’t find anywhere, the best place to look is the Urban Dictionary. Just keep in mind that like Wikipedia, Urban Dictionary is user-created content, and the language is sometimes coarse or crude when defining a term. And remember, there’s no surer way to look like a lame parent than trying to use teen slang yourself.

Photo © 2013 by duncan cunder Creative Commons license.