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Financial lessons kids can learn from Animal Crossing and other online games

Don’t despair if your children are glued to screens and consoles. They might yet be learning valuable lessons about money. Whether your kids are using apps specifically designed for financial education, or popular games that happen to include money content, it can all help with later life.

Learning about money from Animal Crossing

The massively popular Nintendo Animal Crossing games aren’t only about creating virtual worlds for cute animal characters.

Players get paid for selling natural resources like fruit, wood or fish, and use the proceeds to buy furniture and clothes, which is a great introduction to working, trading and budgeting.

You even must pay back a loan for your home to evil overlord raccoon Tom Nook. Who knew mortgages could drive a game viral?

" Who knew mortgages could drive an online game viral? "

Bargaining with Fortnite Skins

Parents might also use Fortnite to their advantage. Fortnite itself is free to play, which has attracted more than 350 million users, but you can also buy costumes and equipment for your avatars, known as ‘skins’.

If your kids pester you to purchase skins, suggest they use their pocket money, or offer to trade V-bucks for chores around the house. Discuss what else their money or time could buy, help them understand the trade offs, and how far their money might stretch.

Keep an eye on in-app purchases

On the money side, one to watch out for is the football management game FIFA.

In FIFA, players can either progress slowly by building up their teams or spend money on player packs in the hope of acquiring better players faster.

The contents of FIFA’s player packs are unknown until after they are bought and opened, similar to loot boxes with weapons or costumes offered in games such as Fortnite and Clash of Clans.

A report on gaming by the Children’s Commissioner highlighted that some children spend up to £300 a year on FIFA player packs and compared buying loot boxes to gambling.

It also reported that gambling regulators in the Netherlands and Belgium have already found that some loot boxes break their gambling laws.

So, if your child campaigns to buy FIFA player packs or loot boxes on other games, help them understand the random nature of the contents and weigh up the cost against the potential for disappointment.

Buying gift vouchers to avoid credit card damage

After seeing horror stories where children have run up big bills on in-app and in-game purchases, I was wary about letting my kids loose on our Xbox with my credit card.

Instead, if my two want to use birthday or Christmas money to buy games, we swap their cash for Xbox gift cards.

That way, my kids must think about which combination of games and expansion packs they can afford. It’s much clearer that when the money is spent, it’s gone, unlike repeated payments on a credit card.

Similar gift cards exist for consoles including Nintendo and PlayStation, while you can use Google Play and Apple App Store versions to buy phone apps. You can even find vouchers for currencies used within games, such as Minecraft Minecoins and Roblox Robux.

Introducing educational games like Island Saver

If your kids are up for it, get them to try games specifically designed for money lessons. NatWest, for example, offers Island Saver, a video game to help kids learn through play, which is available as a console game for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam and Nintendo Switch, as an app and online.

Aimed at 6-to-12-year-olds, players must clear the tropical islands of gloop and plastic pollution. There’s plenty of colourful animals and environments to save – while also encountering money missions along the way, including earning cash, trading, borrowing and tackling tax and foreign exchange rates.

Get ‘appy with pocket money

Take a high-tech approach to pocket money, using smartphone apps such as RoosterMoney or Go Henry.

RoosterMoney offers a free version, which you can use to track pocket money payments, saving, spending and goal setting.

Both also offer paid options and prepaid cards, where you can set chores for children to earn extra cash, get notifications about spending, add parental controls and instantly block and unblock cards if mislaid.

The Rooster card costs £24.99 a year, with additional cards for siblings at £19.99. Go Henry costs £2.99 per month per child, which is £35.88 a year. Both offer a one-month free trial.

So next time you’re concerned about the time spent on games and apps, look on the bright side. They can also build strategic, teamwork and creative skills, strengthen friendships and even teach valuable money lessons.

Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.

3 things to do
right now

1

If your kids pester you to make in-app purchases suggest they use their pocket money or offer to trade V-bucks for chores around the house.Discuss what else their money or time could buy, help them understand the trade-offs, and how far their money might stretch.

2

If you can get them away from Animal Crossing for a moment or two, why not introduce them to games specifically designed for money lessons?NatWest, for example, offers Island Saver, a video game to help kids learn through play, which is available as a console game for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam and Nintendo Switch, as an app, and online.

3

Bear in mind that some games may be too mature for your child, it’s important that you understand what games they handle by observing them playing or have a go yourself.Most modern games have a social element and your children may be speaking with people online.If you see any questionable behaviour, be prepared to intervene – and have a plan for handling it effectively.

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