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Raising a financially savvy child

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By GreatSchools Staff

Theme park teaches kids about money

Ms. L. Bologna of Florida offers an in-depth report of Wannado City: "Here is a way to teach your child about money and they can have fun at the same time. My husband, son and I (my son is almost 5) recently visited Wannado City in Sunrise, Florida. I was very impressed - as you are about to find out.

"It is located in the Sawgrass Mills Mall, which is a short drive west of Fort Lauderdale. They are also building a Wannado City in New Jersey, near the Meadowlands.

"Anyway, this is an indoor amusement park dedicated to teaching kids about money and the economy. It is a children's city the size of three football fields. The children work at jobs to earn "Wongas" (the city's currency) and can also spend Wongas to go on rides or get treats. I'd say children aged 4 to 10 are best suited for this. Some of the jobs are geared to different-aged children by their nature (surgeon likely for an older child...) At some activities a child earns Wongas and at some they spend. For example, if they watch a show at the theater, they pay Wongas. If they act in the show at the theater, they earn Wongas.

"The first thing that happens after you pay admission is each member of your party gets an electronic security bracelet. There are kiosks around the 'city' where you can scan this electronic bracelet and you can see on the screen where the rest of your party is at any given time. They also give each child a check for 150 Wongas. Then you take the kids to the 'bank' and open an account. The child has the option to cash it all, or deposit any portion to their account. They can also get an ATM card to draw out more Wongas later if necessary without having to wait in line. (Just like in real life.) Then you are off. The kids do what they 'Wannado,' hence, the name of the park.

"My son went to the bakery first after seeing the Web site at home days before. He made a cinnamon roll and ate it. (This activity cost Wongas.) Then he started earning. He was an archeologist, an airline pilot, a fireman. (The kids actually get an alarm, ride a truck to the fake fire and put the fire out with real water, and take the truck back. They do put fireman's gear - a raincoat and hat - on the kids before they go), a paleontologist, a gem miner, a nursery doctor at the hospital, and went to the fair to go on some rides (the rides are for smaller kids).

"Other activities included a police department where officers find perpetrators on the street and bring them in, detectives, a hospital as described before (the ER has an ambulance that travels in the city to injured parties and brings in volunteer adult patients.) There is a newspaper, a courtroom with judge and attorneys, a TV studio, a fashion modeling runway, a fair with kiddy rides to spend Wongas, a jewelry store (you pay Wongas and get to make and keep a piece of jewelry made of beads on fishing wire), a grocery store where you can be a shopper or a checkout person, a radio station, a dentist's office where children learn to floss the patient's teeth (the patient is a plastic dummy like the kind they use for CPR classes in the real world), a circus, an acting theater. The kids have a blast.

"Keep in mind that these activities are for kids only and they are supervised, but no parents are allowed when the children are 'working.' Some venues allow parents to watch through a window from outside, but not all or not always for the whole activity. So, if your child is young and may be afraid to leave you, this may not be the best place to go - yet.

"We waited for our son at the exit of each activity (he was fine going in alone) because he's younger and needed guidance on what to do next, but if your kids are older, there is a lounge upstairs with free Internet and television. The drinks there were a bit pricey, but they have a captive audience (real money needed here). You may not leave the building without your child. (If you smoke, one adult party member must remain while the any others leave the building.)

"They also had a food court where we had lunch with a Johnny Rockets, a deli and a pizza stand (again, real money needed). The prices were a bit better than I expected in this food court area.

"When you are ready to leave, you can deposit your Wongas back into the bank (where they will earn interest good during your next visit) or take them with you for a souvenir.

"We were there most of the day arriving at about 10 a.m. and leaving at about 7 p.m. Each activity takes about 20 minutes, and the kids have to wait in line sometimes to do an activity. We went on a school day, so it was not that crowded. I've heard that on weekends and during school vacations, though, it can be packed, so your child may not be able to do as many activities as mine did. Also, not all activities are available at all times, so make sure you heed the schedule if your child really wants to do something specifically. For example, I believe that the airplane was only open from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the day I went. So, if your child really wants to be a pilot, make sure you get there during the times that activity is available.

"At age 4, I'm not sure he really got the economy idea, but he still had a great time and we will be going back - probably more than once. As he grows and we return, I'm sure that he'll grasp the more advanced concepts.

"If you decide to go, I suggest visiting their Web site because they advertise specials for admission. We live only a two-hour drive away from this area and are looking forward to going back for another visit soon. If you don't live nearby but find yourself in Southeastern Florida, especially the Fort Lauderdale area, and you have kids aged 4-10, I strongly suggest you check it out.

"Oh, by the way, parents were free (except for a $2 security fee) when I went and I paid full admission price only for our son. I'm not sure if this is the case all the time. I am also not sure of the details, but I don't think you have to pay for toddlers or infants either. There were a couple of play areas for the toddlers, but they are not worth paying full admission for, so check this out too before you go."

Comments from readers

"Teaching money management is so important I learnt through this artical.thanks a lot . "
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"It is a tragedy that our schools do not require a course in finance, yet it is the one topic that each and every human must deal with in life. How can any school claim to be concerned about developing well-rounded citizens and ignore this topic. Shame on each school, and worse yet, shame on our country."
"This is really key in the lives of young people now a days. We are talking about the same thing at my church. Thank you for this. "