Financial Responsibility, Healthy Me,

Note!  There are multiple lists of 21st Century Skills.  The topics below are suggested by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.  I’ve also included “health literacy” from the Iowa Core framework.  Early childhood educators have always been committed to the WHOLE child.  I believe WHOLE-heartedly that 21st Century Skills do indeed balance the academic core with children’s social, emotional, and physical well-being.

Financial Responsibility
Even young children need to be aware of the impact of money in our world.

Money Tree – Stick a small treebranch in an empty pot of soil.  Tape paper money to the branches.  Display the tree and ask, “Does money grow on trees?  Where does money come from?  How do your parents earn money?  How will you earn money when you grow up?”

Money Tree

Wants and Needs – Discuss the difference between wants and needs.  Make a T-chart with the words “wants” and “needs.”  For homework, have children write their family’s “wants” and “needs.” 

Priorities – Ask each child to draw their three most important “needs” and their three most important “wants.”  Compare and contrast.  Emphasize that people have different “priorities” and wants and needs.

Dollars and Doughnuts – Cut paper dollars out of green construction paper for the children to decorate with their faces.  Cut doughnuts out of brown construction paper.  As the teacher calls out various items, children hold up the dollar if it is a “need.”  They hold up the doughnut if it is a “want.”

Saving for a Rainy Day – Why is it important to save money and other resources?  Let children make piggy banks out of milk cartons or other containers.  What would they like to save for?

Cash, Cards, Checks – Display cash, a credit card, and a checkbook.  Can the children identify all three items?  When, where, how, and why would you use the different ways to pay?

Barter – Explain that bartering is a way to exchange goods and services without money.  If your mother says, “I’ll let you stay up 30 extra minutes if you clean your room,” that’s a good deal for both of you.  Have children describe other things they can barter.
*Role play trading objects with friends.  If someone says I’ll give you a crayon for your bike, that’s not a fair trade.  Things need to be of equal value for everyone to be happy.

Healthy Me
It feels good to feel good!  Young children need to make good choices and take care of their bodies.  Remind them they only have one body and it’s got to last a lifetime!

Feeling Fine – Start your day by singing this song to the tune of “I'm In Right, Out Right, Happy All the Time”.

I'm in right,   (Hold up both index fingers and point to chest.)
Out right,   (Point out with index fingers.)
Up right,    (Reach up high.)
Down right,   (Stoop down low.)
And I'm feeling fine.  (Turn around in a circle.)
I'm in right, out right, up right, down right, and I'm feeling fine.
I eat the food that's good.  (Pretend to feed self with a spoon.)
And exercise like I should.  (Run in place.)
That's why I'm in right, out right, up right, down right,
and I'm feeling fine.

Super Fast!

  • Make a T-chart of junk foods and foods that are good for you.  Younger children could cut pictures out of grocery store advertisements and older students could draw pictures or write words.
  • Talk about what all of us can do to be healthy and feel good.  Let each child draw a picture of what she does to take care of her body.  Put all of the pictures together to make a class book called “Feeling Fine!”

Oxygenate the Brain - Start each day with active movement to oxygenate the brain!  (Children will love to learn what “oxygenate” means.)  Sing a movement song, do exercises, or run around on the playground for 5 minutes.  You’ll be amazed what exercise can do to reduce wiggles and help children focus.

Cross the Midline - Have children put their two fists together to make their “brain.”  Explain that both sides of the brain have to work together. Draw a line vertically down the middle of your body.  That’s called the midline.  Every time you cross over that line, you are helping connect the hemispheres in the brain.  Let children put a piece of painter’s tape on their midline to increase their awareness when you do these activities.

  • Touch right hand to left knee and left hand to right knee.
  • Lift left knee and touch with right elbow.  Lift right knee and touch with left elbow.
  • Lift left foot behind you and stretch back with right hand and touch.  Reverse for the right foot and left hand.
  • Alternate patting the back of your left shoulder with your right hand and your right shoulder with your left hand.
  • Cross the body as you pretend to pick peppers, put items in your shopping cart, chop wood, or make lazy eights in the air.

Brain Hug
Thumbs up.  Thumbs down.  Cross your arms. Clasp your fingers.        
Bring your hands under and into your chest. Give yourself a hug.

Brain Breaks – Wake up children’s brains frequently during the day with a 2-3 minute brain break.  They can jump rope in place, balance on one foot, be rag dolls (flop down and relax) and toy soldiers (stand up straight and stiff), march, dance, and do other exercises.

Fit and Fantastic - Let children draw pictures of how they like to get fit.  Have them dictate or write sentences and use these on a bulletin board.

  • Invite high school athletes to visit your school (in uniform) and talk about how important it is to exercise and eat properly.
  • Make an “Exercise from A to Z” alphabet book where children brainstorm activities for each letter of the alphabet.
  • Brainstorm fun things to do outside to get exercise.  Brainstorm how to exercise inside when the weather is bad.

Health Helpers - Invite a parent who is a health care professional to come discuss her career and give the children advice on healthy living.


Iowa Core Curriculum:

P21 Website:

Trilling, B., Fadel, C. 21st century skills: learning for life in our times. (2009). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

US Department of Labor, Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS). (1992). Learning a living: A blueprint for high performance. Washington, DC: US Department of Labor.  (This is the official YouTube channel for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.) -

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