It’s important for children to understand the difference between needs and wants in order to live with gratitude, and to seek out meaningful relationships and uses of their time.

One of the best ways to teach your child to be content with what she has is to have regular discussions about needs and wants. A need is something people must have to survive and thrive. At Inside Out Club, we talk about how food, shelter, clean water, transportation and literacy—the ability to read and write—are basic needs. A want is something people would like to have. Wants are all around us: You might see your child’s eyes light up when she spots the toy aisle at Target, or when a nursery-rhyme YouTube video plays an ad for sweet breakfast treats. How do you spotlight the differences? Try these these three ways: 

1) Take your child grocery shopping.

Talk to your child about how healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and proteins help keep our bodies healthy and strong. Foods like candy and cupcakes might be nice to eat, but our bodies don’t need them to grow. Keep the conversation going at mealtimes, too.

2) Build a bite-sized budget.

Use a small amount of money to create a fund where your child can spend, save and donate. Emphasize that your child will have to make choices between spending on what they want—maybe a new toy—versus what they need, which might be a new shirt to replace one they’ve outgrown. Saving helps them delay gratification to work toward a goal, and donating helps them see how their dollar can help others. Check out Inside Out Club Through Community to find nonprofits working to meet people’s basic needs to find a worthy beneficiary of your donations.

3) Check out the Inside Out Club Library.

You can find links to books like “A Long Walk to Water,” a true story about how a Sudanese boy had to make a long journey to find clean water, or “Lily Learns about Wants and Needs” that help you guide discussions. A fun family activity is the Teamwork – Fort Building & Helping Others Project, which is a great segue to talking about when communities work together, we can meet the basic needs of all our neighbors. It’s a step toward showing others our love, which we all need to thrive.

Do you have your own creative ways to teach the difference between needs and wants to a child?

Please share in the comments below. 

By: Guest Author