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Sometimes 'educational' equals 'fun'

By Jason Alderman

Sometimes the easiest way to interest your children in something is to turn it into a game - whether it's getting a toddler to eat breakfast or entertaining a carload of third-graders. But when the topic is even remotely "educational," you may face additional hurdles.

It's no secret that when kids are interested in a subject, they'll pay more attention and probably learn more. So why not look for creative ways to engage your children in activities you can do together that will have long-term payoffs - like teaching them how to manage their money and invest in their future?

Here are a couple of suggestions for engaging your kids in activities that are fun, safe and instructive:

Educational fun and games for younger kids. Many family friendly Web sites feature interactive games, projects and brainteasers for children of all ages. Some are activities designed for parents and kids to do together; others are things they can safely do by themselves. You'll find suggestions for ways kids can earn an allowance, online resources to help with homework, word games, suggested reading lists and much more. Check out the American Library Association's list of safe, appropriate Web sites (www.ala.org/greatsites).

Tap into sports mania. If your kids go wild for sports, visit Practical Money Skills for Life, a free personal financial management site sponsored by Visa Inc. It features an online computer game for teenagers called "Financial Football," which Visa developed with the cooperation of the National Football League.

Financial Football combines the structure and rules of the NFL with financial education questions of varying difficulty. Playing against the clock, teams gain yards and score points for answering questions correctly, and lose yardage for wrong answers. You can play Financial Football with your kids one-on-one or by forming teams. See how you do on these teasers:

  1. Why is a dollar called a buck? (a) first U.S. currency had a picture of a deer (b) named after Buck Linser, first Secretary of the Treasury (c) pioneers used deerskins for currency (d) "bucked" the trend of using metal currency
  2. The highest loan rates usually come from a: (a) bank (b) pawnshop (c) credit card issuer (d) credit union
  3. What's the easiest way to fix a budget where income is less than spending? (a) reduce spending (b) increase income (c) reduce taxes (d) increase interest
  4. The riskiest investment would be: (a) savings account (b) U.S. Treasury bonds (c) corporate stocks (d) corporate bonds
  5. Who is NOT allowed access to your credit report? (a) potential landlord (b) your employer (c) financial institutions (d) your relatives
  6. Which is true about bankruptcy? (a) stays on your credit report for 10 years (b) gets rid of all debts (c) protects property bankruptcy by hiding or giving it away (d) all taxes are discharged when you file
  7. Most negative information can stay on a credit report for: (a) 0-5 years (b) 7-10 years (c) 15-20 years (d) until you retire
  8. Take the time to get involved in educating your children: You might even learn a thing or two. Speaking of which, here are the correct quiz answers: 1(c), 2(b), 3(a), 4(c), 5(d), 6(a), 7(b).

Bet you didn't know about the deerskins.

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