‘See a penny, pick it up all day long you’ll have good luck…’
I said this to my sons the other day as I saw a penny on the ground. They looked at me in amusement as I don’t think they’d heard me say it before. I picked the penny up and each boy wanted it but I couldn’t split it between the 3 we all agreed to put it in the spare change pot at home. They then spent the rest of the shopping trip scouring the pavement to see if they could find anymore. They didn’t but they still live ever hopeful! They know that pennies are money and even at aged 8, 4 and 2 they know they have a value and they imagine themselves buying something amazing with their penny long before they’ve found one..
The trouble is a penny really isn’t worth very much these days.
When I was younger I can remember going into the corner shop at the end of my grandparent’s street and buying penny sweets. I remember they were round milk chocolates with hundreds and thousands on the back, I can picture the circle in a circle pattern on the paper bag that they were put in but most of all I remember the smell of sweetness. I wasn’t a child who had lots of sweets so this was always something special. I don’t remember handing my money over but I do remember the sweets and I do remember that there were even some sweets that were 1/2p which meant you could get 2 for your penny!
But that was then and this is now. The ½ penny disappeared but the single penny stayed. I used to think that we needed the penny just for change from 99p as the advertisers used this ploy into trying to make us think an item was a pound cheaper than it actually was. Did we ever fall for this? I’m not sure but I would say definitely now, especially now, we don’t fall for anything when it comes to price. Those single pennies that are given in change jingle around at the bottom of our purses or collect in jars, money boxes and spare change pots until one day the pot overflows and we excitedly empty it. I give the money to the boys to count as it’s a fascinating exercise in teambuilding. Those who organise (Oliver) will immediately come forth and start to boss all those around him into how he would like the exercise to go. He’ll remind them throughout that he is the bigger boy and that he knows what he’s doing. Hen will moan and whine and demand to be heard but his understanding of money is just at the level of knowing that money ‘buys you stuff’ so he’ll love to feel it, touch it and be around it even though he doesn’t understand it’s concept (in terms of amount and how to find the amount) Tobes will just nick a bit and slink off to a corner. This little pile will be his, he will not share and he will annoy the others who will group together (unusually) to get Tobes’ pile back. Oh yes this is a fascinating activity, try it yourself by emptying a pile of change in the middle of a space and just asking them to count it. Don’t interfere; just see what they do…
So my boys know about money and they know it has value but what they find difficult about money is to understand just how much a certain coin will buy. When they do find a penny they want to spend it and I find it really disappointing for them when I explain that no, a penny doesn’t buy you, well, anything these days. They look confused and clearly don’t understand (the younger 2 certainly but I had this with Ollie too) as they sing songs like ‘ 5 currant buns in a Baker’s shop, round and fat with a cherry on the top. Along cam (insert name at will) with a penny one day, bought a currant bun and took it right away..’ So their frame of reference is that money buys you stuff and a penny buys a currant bun so surely it will buy you other things? To buy a magazine such as the Beano they boys would have to find 150 pennies, to buy playmobil set of 2 men they would have to find 249 and to buy a book they’d have to find at least 500 so you can see why they look at me with huge disappointment. The euphoric ‘I found a penny!’ is soon replaced with ‘What’s the point of a penny???’ as we put it in another jar or pot or money box when we get home.
Pocket money is a minefield (and perhaps a blog for another day) as if you’re going to give an amount regularly you have to think about why you’re giving it. If it’s for doing jobs that’s one thing but if it’s too teach your child about money then you’ll need to set an amount that’s not to eye watering but also that they can actually use the money you give them. 10p a week will take years before they can buy anything of any use or after 7 weeks they can buy a chocolate bar. The idea that the only thing they can buy is sweets doesn’t sit very well with me but then you also have to look at the ‘pocket money’ toys that are meant for younger ones to save their money for are generally a load of rubbish. Cheap plastic tat that falls apart with days (if not hours) of them going home teaches them nothing, only that in this day and age we’re happy to sell children rubbish so long as it’s ‘teaching them about money’. It also says ‘I would take the item back if it were faulty or not up to standard but as it’s cheap plastic tat I won’t bother’ are we saying that their money is worth less than our own? That’s a difficult one.
Nostalgia out the way I think we can do without the penny. It means nothing anymore as it’s worth nothing anymore, even a child can tell you that. Maybe we should look at the 2p too as just because it’s double a penny you still can’t buy anything with one and it’s a double disappointment to a young child as it’s a really big coin so should be worth lots! The 5p I’ll let go for now as it’s purely functional only for giving change for things 50p or more. The penny was magical for me, it meant a little treat, and it means the wonderful memory of a delicious smell that puts me right back to being 4 or 5. My boys won’t have this memory of the little penny, they’ll just remember the thrill of finding one glinting in the sun and then being told it wasn’t worth anything. I get the thrill and they get the disappointment. But then, if you listen to what’s going to happen in our children’ future maybe that’s something they need to get used too when it comes to money. Maybe I’m wondering about the small stuff that doesn’t really matter and that I should be thinking about the bigger stuff. How many pennies will my boys need to buy food for the week? Buy a car? Buy a house? I’m not sure the exact amount but I know it’s going to be way more than it’s ever been before. Maybe I should put more stock into caring about the pennies we have and those that we find as if they ‘take care of the pennies; the pounds will take care of themselves’ so goes and old saying. I really hope this is true…