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Make a “Things I Like” List for Kids

This is our “Kid Life” first article. The idea of Kid Life is to take a step back and realize that a wealthy life isn’t always about money.

School is out and summer is here. That means many kids will be home looking for things to do. We had a little break before camps start, so we did a couple of staycations. (Hence, why there have been fewer articles here lately, but we’re back and articles will be more regular now.) During those vacations, I got to reflect on all the things our kids have done. Then I realized there were still so many things that they haven’t done.

I did what comes naturally and started a spreadsheet. It was blank with a heading of “Things I’ve Done” and next to it “Enjoyment (1-10)”. I left a lot of boxes and below that, I put, “Things I Want To Do” and “Priority (1-10)”. I had to explain what priority meant, but the rest was easy for them to pick up. My 9-year-old came up with about 15 things and my 8-year-old came up with about 10. I helped with several items by throwing out anything I knew they did off the top of my head, “Karate, Snowboarding, creating comic strips, etc.”

If you were to ask me if my kids like a specific thing, I could answer you and be accurate about 90% of the time. However, it’s different to put it all on paper. That’s where you get to see what you should try to do more of. For example, my 9-year-old loved archery, but when COVID happened the classes ended and we never picked up on it again.

I took all the things they wrote and edited out the nonsense (watching TV and video games were both 10s on the “enjoyment” scale). I typed them all back into the spreadsheet, leaving plenty of room to add more. This first draft was very helpful, but I had bigger ideas. I did a Google search for “bucket list for kids” and clicked on some of the top results. Each page had about a hundred ideas of things for kids to do. Some were simple things like “roll down a hill”, which I didn’t find very useful. Others were “learn to play the piano.” It was easy to cut and paste these lists into a spreadsheet.

This is when my 9-year-old surprised me. He came up with a code for each one. A check meant that they did it and a circle meant that they haven’t done it. A plus meant that they want to do it and a minus meant that they didn’t want to do it. It was easy to see that “Swim with Dolphins” was far more popular than “Climb a mountain”.

I then asked them to take their thoughts from this and put them into the other spreadsheet. This second version is very good now. Some of the items are difficult bucket list items, but that’s okay. For example, “tour the White House” is a lot tougher than “go whale watching”. (Whale watching isn’t difficult in Rhode Island.) While I was hoping to get more skill items like “get a black belt in karate” all of these one-time experiences are useful too.

One thing that didn’t come up directly in this exercise is money. I purposely left it out. I didn’t want the kids to lose focus on what they wanted. As we start to narrow down the lists, we can talk about budgeting, planning, and saving for the things we really want.

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Brian MacFarland has reached more than 10 million people on his personal finance journey to financial independence.  He’s been featured in the Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report, and Lifehacker.

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