14 Educational Games to Teach Your Kids About Business

If you have ever seen the presentation Shift Happens, then you, like me, likely lose sleep over the fact that our educational system really isn’t set up to teach our children real-life business and entrepreneurial skills.

Take a look at a few facts from the movie:

  • The top 10 jobs we will have in 2010 did not exist in 2004 (as in, we are currently educating our children for jobs that don’t exist yet)
  • In 2004, Nintendo invested more than $140 million dollars in research and development, yet the US Government spent less than half that much on research and innovation in education
  • A week’s worth of content from the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.

One of the driving forces behind the content on this site is to encourage and push more people to go into business for themselves rather than depend on a company for income, which in my mind is more risky than being an entrepreneur.

And I think it is critical that we find ways to teach our children the same – there is no way we can teach them to truly prepare for what they will face 10-15 years from now – but we can teach them to innovate, think for themselves, and give them the skills necessary to make a living no matter what the world is like in 2017.

So this holiday season, give your children a gift that will teach them a thing or two about business. I promise you they will love it if you find them one that fits their interests – my kids are particularly fond of Zoo Tycoon – see below!

Kids Business Games - Monopoly

Monopoly

The grandfather of all money & investment games, and also one of the best. My kids LOVE playing Monopoly (except when I win!!). These days you can find a version of the game to please anyone, like the Monopoly Electronic Banking Edition, Horse-Opoly, or even the Monopoly® SpongeBob SquarePants™ Edition

The “Official” Product Description In 1934, in the midst of the Great Depression, an unemployed heating engineer from Pennsylvania created the game of Monopoly. Realizing that his get-rich theme might appeal to other Americans, he had the game printed and distributed in a Philadelphia department store. When he couldn’t keep up with the overwhelming requests for more sets, he arranged for Parker Brothers to take over the game. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Kids Business Games - KidsWealth

KidsWealth Money Kit

This isn’t just a game, but a way to teach your children to track and manage their own real-life money in a fun way. Where were these things when I was a kid?!

The “Official” Product Description This unique, tested, and proven program uses a practical hands-on approach to teach kids to manage real money in a safe, structured, and supported manner. Kids learn the value of money, how to build smart money habits, and develop a mindset for personal and financial success. Incorporating powerful psychology and advanced learning methods, the award-winning KidsWealth Money Kit makes it easy for parents to open positive, healthy discussions about money.
Kids Business Games - Sims 2

The Sims 2: Open for Business

The Sims is one of the most popular PC games of all time, and with this expansion pack, you can build businesses with the characters you have created. I like this one because you can build just about any business, whereas many of the other games are limited to one area of interest.

The “Official” Product Description In Sims 2: Open For Business you’ll get to design your own clothing boutique, beauty salon, florist, high-end electronics shop, bustling restaurant chain, or virtually any other type of business. Hire your staff as the business grows and put talented Sims to work making toys, running the register, crafting floral bouquets, giving sales pitches, or manufacturing robots. But watch out for slacker employees and be prepared to fire them on the spot. Will you build a thriving business empire or become an eccentric entrepreneurs designing the next big thing?
Kids Business Games - Stock Rush Game

Stock Rush Game

Although I haven’t played this one, I love the idea of teaching children to invest and to risk wisely.

The “Official” Product Description Stock Rush is a fun and exciting board game that includes all the basic principles of trading used in the real world. The object of the game is to become the wealthiest player through trading (buying and selling) Stocks, Commodities, and Franchises.
Kids Business Games - Zoo Tycoon

Zoo Tycoon

I LOVE this game – my daughter has it and she plays it all of the time (and the other kids beg to get their turn!). It teaches kids what it is really like to run a business, from cash flow to inventory, marketing to fundamental business planning. But it’s all done while they are in an open and engaged environment. If your child has an interest in animals, I can’t recommend this game more highly to teach your children how to think like an entrepreneur.

The “Official” Product Description Zoo Tycoon allows players to create their own completely free-form zoo. Start with fences for exhibits, then pick animals and give them toys, foliage, and anything else you want. For customers, you can lay down paths to lead them around, then add food stands, amusement rides, even maps and trash cans.
Kids Business Games - Rollercoaster Tycoon

Roller Coaster Tycoon

I have to say ditto on this – my kids have this one too. Since they have a stronger interest in animals, they play Zoo Tycoon more than Roller Coaster Tycoon. But the principles are the same in this and the following “tycoon style” games.

The “Official” Product Description Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 is a brilliant reworking of the classic management strategy game. An unlimited combination of roller coaster designs and landscapes to help you build the coolest park imaginable!
Kids Business Games - Fairy Godmother Tycoon

Fairy Godmother Tycoon

This has GOT to be the most creative spin on the Tycoon-style games ever. Learn business by setting up a potion shop?! Brilliant!!

The “Official” Product DescriptionFairy Godmother Tycoon gives you the chance to the power behind the world of fairy tales. Climb the ranks of the Fairy Godmother’s operation, then set up shop in different villages across the land. Check the weather forecast each day to find out which curses will strike the peasant village. Buy supplies and upgrades to create magic potions, set your prices, manage your inventory and hire contractors to help move your product.
Kids Business Games - My Horse Farm

My Horse Farm

Another cute spin on the same game concept – you would think this one would be geared at really young children, but according to the reviews on Amazon, your child has to be at least 8 or so, because there is a lot of reading involved.

The “Official” Product DescriptionTake good care of your horses and build your business as you breed champions. Outfit your riders, from head to toe, by choosing from an array of clothes, accessories and hairstyles! Spend your money wisely, make good decisions, and train your horses to become world-class champions.
Kids Business Games - Restaurant Empire

Restaurant Empire

I am seriously considering getting this for my husband, even though it is targeted at a younger audience. Hubby has always wanted to open a restaurant, and I can’t think of a more fun way to “fulfill a dream” than in the virtual world (unless, of course, you can do it in real life!!).

The “Official” Product DescriptionRestaurant Empire is the first game that faithfully recreates all the challenges of building and operating a restaurant franchise through a unique blend of business-simulation and RPG gameplay. Starting with nothing except some cash and a passion for food, build a restaurant from the bottom up–hire waiters, decorate, even cook the meals! Buy, build, outsell and, underprice your competition.
Kids Business Games - Lemonade Tycoon

Lemonade Tycoon 2

I believe this is the second version of one of the earliest ‘tycoon’ style games – what’s cool about this one is that your kids can play it on the computer then take what they learn and start applying it in real life… as in, see below!

The “Official” Product DescriptionLemonade Tycoon 2 juices up business simulation and takes to the streets of NYC! It’s jam-packed with awesome graphics, tons of customer types, loads of equipment upgrades, and tons of equipment upgrades, and 19 different locations.
Kids Business Games - Lemonade Stand and Maker

David Kirk’s Happy Giddy Lemonade Stand & Presto Homemade Electric Lemonade Maker

SOOoooooo cute – and so affordable! The lemonade stand is less than $25 – and really encourages your kids to get out there and take a shot at running a business for a day. Make it easy for them to make lemonade that people actually want to drink with this nifty lemonade maker (also for less than $25).

The “Un-Official” Product DescriptionThe Happy Giddy Lemonade Stand is built from fiberglass (PVC-style) pipes and polyester fabric, measuring 47 3/4″ Height, 23 3/4″ wide, 11 1/2″ Deep. It can be used indoors and outdoors.
Kids Business Games - Play Snack Shop

Learning Resources Pretend & Play Snack Shop

It’s a little hard to teach younger children the more complex strategies of money management and business – but give them the opportunity to get interested in business early by encouraging role playing business games with products like these.

The “Official” Product DescriptionThis convenience store is truly convenient. Simply set it up on a table whenever your child wants to play. The tri-fold board comes with more than 104 pieces including snacks, play money, write and wipe board for daily specials and many more shop items, all in a convenient and sturdy tri-fold board with carrying handle.
Kids Business Games - Supermarket Role Playing Sets

Learning Resources Supermarket Checkout & Pretend and Play Supermarket Set

Call me old-fashioned, but I really don’t like to see the new toys that have been coming out in the last few years with play credit cards. I don’t think it’s wise at all to teach our kids at a young age to spend on credit – good god, we do a good enough job at that on our own as adults. The last thing our kids need is learn to spend without learning what really happens in a transaction.

That’s why I like these playsets – they have “real” play money that teaches kids the basics – including that money indeed changes hands when you buy something!

The “Official” Product DescriptionYour child will love “checking out” the Supermarket Checkout Set. Young supermarket checkers can simply slide food items across the working conveyor belt as the scanner light flashes. The register will beep when it’s ringing up the sale. Set includes working produce scale, swivel price display, nine plastic food items, plastic credit card and shopping basket.

The Pretend and Play Supermarket Set has everything kids need to open a pretend store. This 93 piece set includes a durable cotton apron with nametag, a colorful shopping basket, groceries, assorted dry-erasable sale signs, coupons, assorted play money and more.

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Comments

  1. says

    We absolutely love Roller Coaster Tycoon! We have all the versions. Not only are you having fun, you are learning how to manage money, employees, and responsibility.

  2. Carla says

    Wish I had some of these around when I was a kid! I can’t agree with you more about the importance of teaching our kids these skills. Thanks for sharing!

  3. says

    I’d never heard of the Tycoon games before. They sound wonderful and I will probably get one for my son. Thanks for the tip.

  4. says

    Wendy,
    Another game that I think is essential is the “Cashflow for Kids” from Robert Kiyosaki’s “Cashflow” series. I’ve personally bought Cashflow 101, Cashflow 202, and CashFlow for Kids.

    I love playing 101 and 202, and I’ll play CF for Kids when they’re with me. I’ve started gradually shifting my son (my 8 year old) to CF 101, and he’s learning the difference between GOOD investements and BAD ones.

  5. Joann Loos says

    These sound like so much fun! I want to play too, mom! If you’d like a chance to try out some of these games before buying…check out the Virtual Apple website. They have many of the original Apple II games. All the games are for free, and can be played online or downloaded. You do need a Windows machine tho.

    Here’s a link for the original Tycoon game:
    http://www.virtualapple.org/tycoonddisk.html
    One for Lemonade Stand:
    http://www.virtualapple.org/lemonadestanddisk.html

    They also have NumberMunchers and Oregon trail, along with some other educational games.

    Play on!

  6. says

    Another “me too!” on recommending the Tycoon games. We started with Zoo Tycoon and are now completely into Roller Coaster Tycoon, in all its variations. It would keep my 7yo high-energy son completely engaged for hours if I didn’t make him take 20 minutes off every hour to move. The things he can do, with the engineering and “service memos” and upkeep of his park…absolutely amazing.

  7. Posco says

    Meh. You don’t need to read beyond the first sentence of this post: “our educational system really isn’t set up to teach our children real-life business and entrepreneurial skills.”

    EXACTLY. The purpose of education is NOT to teach real-life business and entrepreneurial skills that will be obsolete in 20 years. Grade school, middle school, and high school, even college do not teach you those things, by DESIGN. They teach you how to learn, so that you will be prepared for those jobs that we parents have not even dreamed.

    Actually, education allows you to critically think about a lot of those “scary” facts presented in the video.

    A lot of these games are lots of fun. But don’t believe the dream that they will make your child gain entrepreneurial spirit or responsibility. C’mon. If you want them to learn about real life, you use real life to teach. Things like taking care of real people and pets, handling the real allowance, etc.

    I have nothing against “educational” toys, but please don’t leave your child unattended at the computer and think that many precious lessons will be learned in your absence.

  8. Wendy Piersall says

    Posco, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, and I’m not here to change your mind.

    I can say I feel rather ‘Meh.” about what you say. The presentation you say has ‘scary facts” wasn’t written by us, it was written by a teacher who was expressing his own concerns about our school system.

  9. says

    Hi, I read your post of problogger.net about how what you did in 2007 to make your blog a success. I’m really clear about the idea of blog networks, could you please shed some light.

    My blog at http://www.peleodiase.com took last Nov, can you have a look and suggest ways I can improve it?

    You talked about avoiding ramp up time? could you explain that as well

    Kind regards

  10. says

    I would add 2:

    1) How about “Life”? It isn’t perfect, but they’ve redone it, and now you get money credit for life experiences.

    2) A better game than Monopoly (both as a game, and coming from an academic economist who thinks that Monopoly teaches the wrong things) is an out of print game called Rail Baron. You can find used copies on E-Bay, and there is a downloadable version as well. The idea is the same that you try to bankrupt your opponents, but you do it by putting together a network of railroads that your opponent can’t avoid having to use (and pay for) because it connects to places they need to go.

    David Tufte’s last blog post..Create Your Own Characters for Office

  11. Wendy Piersall says

    David, are you KIDDING me?! Rail Baron sounds like a game that’s being played today by a different name – it’s called GOOGLE Baron. ;)

  12. jurisnaturalist says

    You totally miss Settlers of Catan. This game teaches the intuition of trade and opportunity cost better than anything else on the market. My kids have been playing since they were 5, there’s no real math, just hard commodities being traded and developed into higher order goods.
    Ant there’s a robber, whom I like to call the taxman.

    jurisnaturalist’s last blog post..How to tell if you don’t know something: aka don’t get Tyler mad

  13. Super Mom says

    I LOVE the Tycoon games, never mind for my kids, but the Sims are my top pick.

    Super Moms last blog post..Rabbit Reno’s!

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