Every saturday Dave and Jenny get their weekly allowance. SEK 20 if their stuff is in order, or SEK 10 if their stuff is a mess. Their stuff was in order so I gave them the equivalent in Chinese currency – 19 yuan each. They have some freedom in how to spend it (but not total freedom).
We were at a marketplace yesterday. I tend to avoid these types of places, I get overwhelmed by the amount of stuff and the pushiness of the salespeople. But the kids really badly want to buy something (or more like everything…).
So I told them they could spend 5 yuan each on whatever they like, if they can manage the whole transaction themselves. And whatever they buy they have to carry themselves for the whole trip.
I had to stay away because whenever I was near the salespeople focused too much on me. I wanted them to talk to the kids. So I hung about some distance away, while keeping an eye on the kids.
They loved it! They really had a blast, running between the different shops, examining items and haggling with the sales people. The salespeople were having fun too, they obviously weren’t used to haggling with blond 6 & 8 year old kids! They didn’t have any language in common, Dave & Jenny were speaking Swedish and the salespeople were speaking Chinese! But they still understood each other through some kind of natural negotiation sign language for phrases like “What does this cost”, “Can I buy this for 5 yuan?”, “No, I only have 5 yuan”, “Well, what else CAN I buy for 5 yuan then?”, “Can I have the purple one instead?”, “Never mind, I’ll go somewhere else!”
They came back to me 10 minutes later, proudly displaying their loot – a fan and a great wall statuette. Totally overjoyed! A great learning experience for only 5 yuan x 2. And best of all, I didn’t have to suffer through the purchasing process myself :o)
Later that evening Jenny learned another lesson. Her fan was already breaking apart. She was crying a lot, so I asked her what she learned. “I will check the quality better next time!”. She was sad about losing the 5 yuan, so I challenged her to find a way to earn it back.
10 minutes later she had set up a store! She sold the fan and a bunch of other toys to Dave and me and Sia, and earned more than the 5 yuan she lost. Overjoyed again! And the other kids were having fun too. In fact, that is their default activity in the apartment now – opening stores and selling stuff to each other, back and forth. Using different currencies such as Swedish crowns, Danish crowns, Chinese yuan, and play money (which they create on paper). They are learning lots about calculating total price, how much change to pay back on large bills, etc.
I can’t think of any better way to learn and practice math and basic business skills :o)