As the temperature drops and activities move inside, here are some new ways to entertain and enlighten your kids and teens.
How about some fun money lessons? Given Wall Street's zany zigzagging and the relentless drumbeat of stories about debt and more debt, we've all been a little preoccupied with the ups and downs of finances lately.
"It is not a topic that many parents like to talk about. ... Some think money is only an adult topic. Or the schools should teach it. But that just doesn't happen," said Karyn Hodgens, co-founder of KidNexions, a financial education company.
In recent weeks, a number of entrepreneurs, nonprofits and financial companies have launched new money-management tools for kids, from tots to teens.
Pig out on money goals
T. Rowe Price, a global investment company, has a free activity book with mazes, crosswords and games that show kids how to reach a money goal such as buying a new video game or getting a puppy. It's available to download at www.troweprice.com.
Featuring the pink pig that's part of T. Rowe's family finance materials, the activity book promises to teach kids how to become "a finance smarty pants" with money vocabulary and concepts. It's part of T. Rowe's "Great Piggy Bank Adventure," which is an online game and interactive exhibit at Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.
For parents, T. Rowe's website hosts an amusing "When I Was Your Age" forum, written by adults about their childhood experiences with money, good and bad.
Save, not spend
Started in Los Angeles by John Lanza, a former children's TV producer and father of two girls, the Money Mammals company recently packaged a new family kit featuring its DVD, picture book, allowance workbook and set of three saving-money jars. It's also working on an iPad app based on its colorful puppets, which make appearances around the country at schools and credit unions.
The kit is $29.95 at www.themoneymammals.com.
The new Princeton, N.J.-based startup company is focused on financial literacy with a trio of online games, based on age:
TheFunVault.com, ages 5-9, teaches coin recognition, needs vs. wants and other money basics.
SandDollarCity.com, ages 8-12, is a virtual computer game set in an underwater village where kids manage a candy shop. Akin to popular Farmville and similar simulation games, it lets kids buy inventory, make store upgrades, handle expenses, etc.
IRuleMoney.com, ages 13-19, has 30-second videos of teens talking to teens, answering questions on jobs, credit cards and car loans.
Kenneth Damato, DoughMain's founder and CEO, said he got inspired to launch the company after watching his two sons handling their virtual dollars on Webkinz, the online pet-care website for kids.
"We don't want our children glued to a computer screen if they're not learning something," Damato said. "So while you're cooking dinner or doing chores around the house, your kids can be learning something useful."
Kids Money app
The free updated iPhone app lets kids figure out how long they'll need to save for a toy, bike or other items.
Money management websites for kids and teens
--Don't Buy It: www.pbskids.org/dontbuyit
Funded by the Center for Public Broadcasting, the "Don't Buy It" site teaches kids and teens how to be smart shoppers and avoid advertising "tricks" and slick marketing gimmicks.
--The Mint: www.themint.org
Info, games, quizzes and tips for kids, teens and parents on all things money: earning, saving, spending, investing and donating. Sponsored by Northwestern Mutual Foundation, it includes financial-conversation how-to tips for parents of kids from 2 to 22.
--Family Money: www.smartaboutmoney.org
Sponsored by the National Endowment for Financial Education, it offers loads of family-friendly info, including tips on "economic survival," back-to-school finances and helping kids, from preschool to college, understand money.
It sells money-saving software and books for kids, but also offers free tips and how-tos.
--Savings Quest: www.mysavingsquest.com
Geared to teens, it lets them pick a personal character and a career, then go on a "savings quest" to reach a goal, whether it's a big-screen TV or five days at a theme park. Sponsored by Wells Fargo, it's an entertaining budgeting guide.
--U.S. Mint For Kids: www.usmint.com/kids
It makes heads and tails out of coin collecting with games, puzzles and history.
--Financial Sports: www.practicalmoneyskills.com/games
Geared to students ages 11 to college, these Visa-sponsored video games offer multiple-choice questions on loans, credit card debt and other financial topics. Co-branded by the National Football League and soccer's FIFA World Cup. Also has other nonsports financial games.