Empowering Kids to Dream, Save, Do
Financial empowerment is a core life skill, especially in this day and age when children are growing up in a highly complex world. Whether they come from low-resourced backgrounds or more privileged ones, learning basic concepts like saving, sharing and spending is essential for growth and child development.
The question many caregivers struggle with is: How young can financial empowerment be taught? The early years are the best time. Brain development is at its peak in the first five years, and lessons learned can be lifelong. But financial empowerment is about more than just financial skills. It’s about having the capacity and mindset to set goals and to be more confident in making sound choices to achieve those goals.
In some countries, however, talking about money to young kids is not looked on favorably. Sesame’s research in India shows that several barriers prevent parents from engaging with their children on money. These barriers can be psychological (“Why put unnecessary pressure on children?”), social (“What will people think?”), age-linked (“They are too young”) or philosophical (“Children shouldn’t be introduced to the notion of rich or poor”).
Sesame’s Dream, Save, Do: Financial Empowerment for Families, sponsored by MetLife Foundation, aims to help children and adults set goals, aspire, make plans and understand that the choices they make every day can help them achieve their dreams. By using Sesame Street multimedia content, such as songs and comics, to teach effective strategies for spending, saving, sharing and donating, we have helped millions of children learn life skill concepts. These include executive function, making choices, differentiating between needs and wants, delaying gratification and articulating their dreams and goals.
In India, we created a toolkit of videos, audio recordings and games that children and parents can play together, all based on popular Sesame Street Muppets from the Indian adaptation of Sesame Street (Galli Galli Sim Sim) and Chamki ki Duniya, a TV show based on Galli Galli Sim Sim’s lead female character. Given many parents’ reluctance to talk with their children about money, the toolkit includes tips for parents and caregivers on why and how to engage children around financial empowerment.
Characters like Chamki, Galli Galli Sim Sim’s lead female character, teach children about financial empowerment. Photo: Sesame
We partnered with several community-based self-help groups to reach caregivers and children. Working with women’s microfinance self-help groups in Rajasthan and Jharkhand through partner SUPPORT, we facilitated financial empowerment sessions using the Dream, Save, Do materials, including videos, songs, worksheets and games. Through partners MRYDO and CFAR, we host mobile community viewings of our videos and facilitate activities in urban slums in Delhi. We reached over 50 million children through television, radio and on-ground activities.
And while we await the final evaluation report, stories of change are pouring in, showing visible change — among children, families and communities.
Eight-year-old Hiralal from Bhagora, Phalla Village, in Rajasthan developed the habit of saving and realized the importance of prioritizing his needs over his wants. Instead of using his savings on chocolates and fancy clothes, he purchased his school uniform. He says, “My uniform was torn, and I needed it to continue going to school.”
Inspired by Chamki (Galli Galli Sim Sim’s lead female character), eight-year-old Prachi expressed her dream of becoming a badminton player and bought a badminton racket using the savings in her piggy bank.
Children who have started saving and planning are able to differentiate between needs and wants, and are able to make better and informed choices. They are also transferring their learning beyond money to saving other resources like water, chalk, pencils and paper.
Anisha Tudu, an eight-year-old girl from Girdih, Jharkhand, understood the lessons of savings. She started reusing waste paper and chalk in her classroom. She also educated her classmates on how to conserve and reuse resources.
Anisha educated her classmates on how to conserve and reuse resources. Photo: Sesame
Starting young on financial empowerment reaps long-term benefits. It not only improves and reinforces financial behaviors, but also helps families and children to prepare for the future and deal with potential setbacks in a flexible and creative manner.
This blog was adapted from Sashwati Banerjee’s remarks before the Customer Centricity Learning Event on February 20, 2018. The event was jointly organized by the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF), CGAP, Dvara and LeapFrog Investments.