Economic Production (page 2)
Closely related to the concept of scarcity is the concept of production. The function of production, to some extent, is to try to meet the unlimited wants of consumers. In a democratic society, people choose the goods and services they consume and produce, although advertising and consumer demand influence both. The concept of exchange of money is related to economic production: consumers use money to purchase goods and services. Children can develop concepts of (1) being a consumer, (2) the function of money, (3) the differences between goods and services, and (4) production.
Even before children can walk or talk, they consume goods, use services, and express their wants and needs. As they mature, they begin to choose what they buy. Their values influence the decisions they make; they will evaluate alternatives and select the best buy for their money and needs as well as act on their rights and responsibilities as consumers.
Throughout the school year, you can help children clarify their likes and dislikes. They might discuss and identify the stories they like or dislike, decide on materials they like, and explain why they did not select the alternative materials. Making lists, booklets, charts, or murals depicting favorite things at school, at home, or in the neighborhood will help children clarify their preferences. You can remind children to be honest and make decisions based on their likes rather than those of their parents, peers, or teacher.
Playing store is another way in which children make concepts of consumer and producer real to them. Taking on the role of clerk and purchaser, children gain insights into the roles of consumer and producer. Researchers have found that children’s store play begins simply, gradually building in complexity and becoming closer to reality:
- Stage 1. The very young child uses imitative play, often with a mother or a father, and uses imaginary goods. Usually the child has no concern about purchasing or exchanging money.
- Stage 2. This is the beginning of creative play. Children improvise play materials, use buttons for money, and play at purchasing items.
- Stage 3. Children appear to desire more representative goods; empty cartons, canned goods, and play money are useful at this stage.
- Stage 4. Children construct the store and goods, build counters, cut money out of paper, make signs, and take parts in purchasing and in exchanging money.
- Stage 5. A continuation of free play leads to more involved projects and teacher-contrived explorations of children’s interests. Children use signs, prices, graphs, and scales and hold sales with reduced merchandise or actually sell small boxes of raisins, cookies baked by the class, or plants grown from seeds.
As with other play, children need time to develop complex responses and to become involved in store play. To obtain the full potential from shop play, children need the opportunity to progress from the imitative stage to the creative and complex stage. Thus, shop play should continue through the primary grades rather than stop at kindergarten or first grade.
The best way to learn to become a wise consumer, however, is to practice consuming. You need to provide as many opportunities as possible for children to make choices about purchases. In deciding on materials to purchase for the class or themselves, children need to consider: “How long will it last?” “How many ways can it be used?” “Is it something I really need or just want?” “If I spend my money for this, will I have any left for other things?”
As consumers who watch 3 to 5 hours of television daily, children should be aware of advertising’s influence on their decision making. Children do not distinguish between programs and advertisements and cannot understand that a commercial’s intent is to sell something. Even worse, the advertisements are aimed at breaking down the resistance of rational adults.
Based on strong psychological research and theory, advertisements do affect consumer behavior. Teachers can begin introducing children to the idea that advertisements are designed to influence the purchase of goods and services. Children can begin to analyze ads. The language arts activity of writing ads about real or pretend products helps children to see how words are selected to influence purchases and to realize that commercials are written by people. If children do not have writing skills, the commercials can be dictated or orally presented to the class by a committee.
Children can send for an advertised cereal-box toy and, on its receipt, compare the toy with its ad. Ask, “Does the toy do what the advertisement promised?” “What else could you have bought for the same amount of money?” “Would another purchase better fill your needs or wants?” “How does the toy received differ from the advertised one?”
Primary children can also analyze ads for other toys. Ask the children to watch a particular ad on television, arrange to have it shown to the class, or bring in an ad from a current paper or magazine. Read the ad and then compare the claims with the product. The children can, if it is convenient, take a trip to the toy store, or the product can be made available in class. Have the children determine if the ad distorted the product. Typical questions include “Did the doll really move the way it did on television or the way the ad said it would?” “Did the car really move as fast as it appeared to in the television ad?” “Did any parts of the ad make you think something different about this toy? Which parts?” “Were all parts of the ad true?”
At times, certain advertising slogans become popular and can serve as another vehicle for analysis of ads. Any slogan that is popular can be tested by kindergarten or primary children: “Will this candy mint make your mouth feel fresher than another?” “Does this soap really clean the clothes better than another?” “Does this towel absorb better than another?” “Which soap makes your hands softer?” “Let’s try it for ourselves.”
To be truly effective, consumer education must involve parents. Let the parents know about the activities the children are involved in at school. Tell parents that the activities will help children (1) weigh their purchases in terms of their goals, values, and resources; (2) make selections from the alternatives; and (3) accept the consequences and responsibilities that arise from their decisions. Inform parents about things they can do to reinforce children’s abilities to analyze ads and make wise purchases. Parents can include children in their decisions about food purchases: “Would you like this box of cookies? It contains more cookies than this other box, but the cookies in this other box are made with real chocolate.” Parents can also include children in discussions about larger purchases: “We need a new carpet and a new washing machine; how can we decide which to buy?” You can invite parents to school to tell the children about their experiences as consumers, how they make decisions for purchases, or about the time an advertisement lured them into making a foolish purchase and how they felt about it.
Consumers have rights and responsibilities. Their rights are to choose which goods and services they will buy, obtain accurate information about goods and services, shop in safe places, and be able to register complaints and seek redress of grievances. Consumers also need to respect the property and rights of others when shopping. You could take a shopping trip with the children to observe good and bad shopping manners. Children can make a list of all the things they think are improper shopping behaviors: running in the store, opening packages, or crowding at the checkout line. Ask them to add a list of proper shopping behaviors. Children might be able to role-play both good and bad behaviors.
© ______ 2005, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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