Needs and Wants

Our Social Studies curriculum was made up of different strands – under the economics strand we had benchmarks that covered what it means to be a consumer and producer, and the difference between needs and wants.  I thought that Christmas was a perfect time to introduce this topic.

I found this book:

Needs and Wants (Pebble Books) [Library Binding]

Olson Gillia M. (Author)

This whole Pebble series does a great job explaining many topics in a Kindergarten friendly way – using great pictures and simple language. (I also liked their book on Living and Non – Living.)

I usually introduced the topic of needs and wants by asking children why people had jobs – or why they worked.  It usually took a few children before someone came up with the idea that people work to earn money to buy things for their families.

We discussed how every family has to make choices about how they spend their money.  Then we talked about how we were so lucky in our class that everyone had enough money to buy things that they need. (Luckily in my community that is mostly true.)  We listed things we need to have to be healthy and safe – food, clothes, a home, a bed, etc.  Then we also said that most people do NOT have enough money to buy everything they would like to have; but don’t really need.

Sometimes I passed out magazine pictures that I precut and we sorted them by needs or wants (milk, shirt, shoes, bread = needs;  doll, bike, candy = wants)  You could also have the children find pictures that depict needs or wants in magazines by themselves.

After reading the Needs and Wants book we sang a song to the tune of Oh Christmas Tree.  I always found that singing about a subject really helped children internalize the information.

Oh needs and wants

Oh needs and wants

We can’t have all the things we want

We really want

A lot of stuff

But sometimes there’s just not enough

Oh needs and wants

Oh needs and wants

We can’t have all the things we want.

This made a cute and funny addition to our Kindergarten Holiday Program.


I used an activity with the Polar Express to reinforce being a producer and consumer.  I usually did this the last day before our Holiday Break.  I would ask the children to do a task, maybe a writing assignment or math game.  If they completed it they would each “earn” a quarter.  Then during clean up time I went around with a clipboard, checking off those children who were working hard (everyone got a check mark) and they would earn a dime.   Then I told the children that I was going to sell tickets to see the movie the Polar Express.  The tickets cost 25 cents.  I actually bought a roll of tickets – but you could use scraps of construction paper or run something off as a ticket.  While the children were out of the room – at lunch or at a special, I arranged the chairs in rows to pretend our room was a movie theater.

I did not give them the coins ahead of time.  I passed out a quarter to each child, reminding them that they earned it by doing their job.  Then I took the class out to the hallway where they lined up to buy a ticket.  As they went into the room I tried to have a parent helper there to take the tickets and seat the children in the rows of chairs.

We started the movie and watched part of it.  Then I stopped the movie and told the children that I just remembered that they also earned 10 cents for cleaning up.  I passed out a dime to each child.  Then I told them that I had juice and popcorn for sale – 10 cents per child.  I collected the dimes from children sitting in one row at a time  and they went to their tables (there were no chairs at tables because I had used them as theater seats).  At each table there was popcorn already individually bagged and a juice box or glass of juice.  After they cleaned up again we went back to the movie.  It is a pretty long movie – sometimes I substituted a shorter holiday movie instead.  If I did not want to include a drink I let them eat the popcorn in their chairs, but that meant we had lots on the floor.  The kids loved this – I turned the lights off so the room was dim, and they sat much better for the video than when they were all on the floor.

I loved doing special things with my Kindergartners, but I also felt like I needed to justify how all our activities fit into the curriculum.  You could always do a follow up activity to a movie where the children made a connection to something that happened in the movie, retold the beginning, middle and end; or wrote about their favorite part.  Sometimes we also compared a book with a video version of the story!


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