Teaching kids about money management: Sesame Street to SpongeBob

Written by Amanda Boehm-Garcia   // May 6, 2011   // 1 Comment

Photo by Miki Yoshihito

The New York Times posted an excellent video about Sesame Street’s renewed efforts to teach children about spending money and financial literacy. From singing Muppets to adult guests, they teach kids how to effectively manage their money. Familiar Muppets are brought into the fold of the Sesame Street teaching series, like the Cookie Monster and Elmo to demonstrate examples of how we can save money, even if we are only three or four years old. I love this idea. We have to start somewhere with letting kids know that making purchases on borrowed credit is not the way to get the nicer, material items in life. Especially since our public education systems doesn’t have enough resources to teach these values consistently.

But in the age of Cartoon Network and Nick Jr., are kids getting the same education on financial literacy through other shows? To name a few of the popular shows that my nieces watch regularly include, Yo Gaba Gaba, Pokemon, SpongeBob and many others. At first glance, they don’t seem to guarantee the same level of insight about finances the Sesame Street does. I would not expect these cartoons to carry a burden that should fall squarely on the shoulders of parents and teachers. Admittedly, I am curious to see if they have similar offerings to educate my next of kin on the wide world of money. Let’s delve into a few of these cartoons and see if they have similar levels on lessons of financial literacy.


Yo Gaba Gaba: Ages 1 to 4

Although many episodes have legendary musical guests and sing about feelings, eating, making new friends, being safe, favorite holidays and colors, the target audience is a level below the sesame street viewership. I wasn’t able to find any lessons readily available that include teaching related to money or how to spend and save it. I have to admit that the Banana Song by The Aggrolites is very catchy.


Curious George: Age 3 & up

George the Grocer Episode: In order to get a toy that George really wants, he learns that he has to find work first before he can make his purchase. This is totally in line with Sesame Street and their concept of delayed gratification spending. Each episode even boasts an educational lesson and “George the Grocer” offers teaching in math concepts.


Dora the Explorer: Ages 2 to 4

Overall, these episodes touch on the same themes as Yo Gabba Gabba, mainly appealing to our visual, auditory, and emotional senses. The re-occurring lessons here are about looking for animals, saving animals and reuniting animals with their mothers. There is a more international element to Dora, to get the little ones increasingly familiar with the world around them. These are still valuable ideas to teach our kids, but more advanced concepts related to math and money are not large part of their focus.


Pokemon : Ages 4 to 10

Ok, I can’t understand what they’re saying half of the time. Watching this kind of cartoon can give a person seizures or nightmares after realizing what a “Squirtle” or “Weedle” looks like. This cartoon explains why the millennial generation is obsessed with sending text messages that look like viruses that have infected our cell phones. I honestly can’t decipher the abbreviated codes that my oldest niece texts to me. There is the possibility that kids are so busy trying to explain what their short-hand means in more text messages, that it doubles the cost of their monthly data use bill. This popular cartoon does not have the desired effect of teaching any financial life lessons.


SpongeBob SquarePants: Ages 6 to 11

SpongeBob SquarePants has been a beloved cartoon for over 10 years and draws the same high-level stars to guest on the episodes like Yo Gabba Gabba and Sesame Street, but the target age is significantly different. Their overall focus regarding money really has to do with being greedy and how greed is not good. However, in the “Money Talks” episode, there is a great reference to wasteful spending. Mr. Krabs’ wish comes true to be able to talk to money. The talking coins constantly harass Mr. Krabs with their desire to be spent on nonessentials such as corndogs and princess dresses. So pointed lessons on money management are not always the main theme, but more about enjoying life and friends

Of course, we would prefer that kids spend more time outside or doing activities that are unrelated to the almighty television. Since TV – and the cartoons that come with them – are going to be a foreseeable part of our future, maybe they can change with the tide and add more lessons on money management and financial literacy.

More resources for educating kids on their fiscal responsibility are available here.


money management


  1. By Faith Gauvain, February 23, 2019

    Excellent insight into the inner workings of a child’s mind in relation to their concepts about money.


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