Skills & Tools to Develop a Business Mindset in Today’s Youth
Children learn by imitating the adults in their lives, like their parents, family members, teachers, and caregivers. Like so many other young boys, my first job was cutting grass starting at the age of 12, toting my dad’s lawn mower, trimmer and gas cans up and down my street. I was thrilled to make $20 per yard. At a young age, the job taught me a tremendous amount about responsibility and work ethics, as well as critical basic business skills, such as developing relationships with new clients using a Quickbooks invoicing system and, when I had to buy a new riding mower, the value of depreciating an asset over multiple seasons.
While some of these fundamental life skills will always remain relevant in the business world, the ever-growing e-commerce industry means the specific business skills I teach my children will be drastically different than the skills I was taught as a young lad. In order to be successful in ecommerce, children need to first understand how money works, like how to make it, save it, spend it and allocate it wisely. This education should start early and at home, and then continue through elementary and middle school – and all the way up through college.
Our future lies in the bright, inquisitive minds of our youth. All we have to do is light that entrepreneurial spark in them, send them down the right path, and watch them grow into the successful e-commerce business people of tomorrow.
E-Commerce Education Websites That Inspire and Ignite Interest in Our Youth
There are a number of websites centered around e-commerce, online business and becoming an entrepreneur for children and teens of all levels and ages. In addition, many of them offer lesson plans and other teaching resources for parents and teachers, too. And since most children learn by doing, many of these resources offer quizzes, flashcards, worksheets and activities to keep their interest going:
- Quizlet: Offers worksheets, tests, flashcards and games on a number of subjects including e-commerce concepts and terminology for students, parents and teachers.
- Lesson Planet: Site provides online educational resources for teachers curated by ratings, grade, subject and common core or state standards. They offer resources, printable, unit lessons and apps for teaching many subjects, but have several lessons centered on e-commerce, including Dot-Commerce, Internet Shopping Business Idea and Intro to Electronic Commerce.
- Bizkids: Based on the kid’s show, they call it “The place where kids teach kids about money and business,” and the site is extensive, offering many resources to help them grow into tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.
- Bizworld: For almost 20 years, Bizworld has been encouraging young people to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit through their programs, bizworld, bizmovie and bizwiz.
- TeachingKidsBusiness: Jeff Brown, social entrepreneur and author wanted to teach kids about business both as a parent and as a business person, so he developed the site to help kids, parents and teachers access tools, games, lessons and other resources to be future entrepreneurs.
- You Are Here: For students in the fifth through eighth grades, this site is “where kid learn to be smarter consumers.” It offers resources and activities to teach kids about the modern marketplace, including four areas, West Terrace, Food Court, Security Plaza and East Terrace that teach concepts like target marketing, supply and demand, privacy protection and scams.
- Econ Kids: Rutgers University created this site for teachers, parents and others who want to teach economics to elementary-aged children. It offers listings of books, including the Book of the Month and new Books, as well as helpful links and other resources.
Fun Games That Teach Serious Business
Everyone loves to play games, and the best part is, they can teach us important lessons sans the boredom. These games may mean serious business, but they also deliver some serious fun, too:
- Gravity: A game that teaches e-commerce vocabulary and concepts.
- Bizkids Games: Games include Break the Bank, Bring Home the Bacon and Dollar a Glass.
- Be Your Own Boss: Offered by PBS, this game lets kids pick a business they’d like to start and they use the game to learn how to make it thrive and succeed.
From Banking to Baking: Mobile Apps for Our Future Business People
Children today are tech-savvy, which means they love apps just as much as adults do. Add a sprinkle of imagination and inspiration, and here are some apps that offer valuable lessons on managing, investing, saving and donating money. From virtual banks and bakeries to role-playing as an adventure capitalist or philanthropist with a love for animals, here are some of the best:
- Bankaroo: An 11-year old girl designed “The Virtual Bank for Kids,” an app for teaching children ages five to 13 all about saving money towards a goal, even though it does not link to a real bank account. It has a section just for schools, tutorials on how to use the apps and a blog.
- Savings Spree: A Parent’s Choice Gold Award winner, this app is for ages five and up. It teaches how to save money, as well as how to invest, donate and spend it. It is in a game show format consisting of six rounds, each teaching various financial concepts. The winner is the player at the end with the largest amount of savings.
- Motion Math: Offers games for individual or classroom play, like Pizza and Cupcake that lets kids run a virtual pizza place or cupcake bakery using the real-world application of money for managing various types of businesses.
- AdVenture Capitalist: A game where kids can seek world domination via a lemonade stand by learning how to hire workers, buy upgrades and even attract angel investors.
- Unleash the Loot: For future philanthropists, this app is a game that shows kids how to save money to care for an endangered animal, by having them put money into three different accounts, savings, spending and charity. Parents and caregivers have access to the app to let them monitor their child’s progress and discuss what they are learning in the game.
Watch, Learn and Do: Videos That Teach Valuable E-Commerce Lessons
Kids and television were made for each other, but there’s much more for kids to watch than Saturday morning cartoons and dance music shows. Here are some that will teach, motivate and spark their interest in small business and e-commerce:
- TeachingKidsBusiness Videos: Offers several YouTube videos via their site, including The Kids’ Guide to Business, The Gift of Business for Kids, and Teaching Kids Business: Why, What, When, Where, How & Impact.
- Ted-Ed: Offers free video lectures that teach about business and economics topics, like Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders and The Real Origin of the Franchise.
- The Futures Channel: A video lesson subscription service that offers videos that teach a number of topics including business and commerce.
- YouTube Kids: A free app for Android and iOS that provides learning videos on many topics, including ecommerce and business. It also offers special features like parental controls.
Learning E-Commerce Coding Fundamentals the Fun Way
The idea of adding basic coding skills to the classroom is an idea that has been implemented in several curriculums around the world. The goal is not necessarily to turn every student into a computer scientist. Rather, it is to open students eyes at an early age and help them understand the problems that can be solved with different kinds of coding solutions.
Clive Beale, director of educational development at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, explained in this New York Times article, “We don’t teach music in school to make everyone a concert violinist.” Instead, the goal is to lay the basic foundation and understanding of coding, as Beale say, “It’s good for everyone to understand the basics of how these things work. And by the way, you might be really good at it.”
The Building Blocks of Block-Based Programming
- ScratchJr: A free iPad and android app for kindergarten through grade 2 that uses drag and drop programming with a five-star rating from teachers.
- Codeable Crafts: For kindergarten through grade three, this free android app teaches kids to animate stories using coding blocks and drawing tools.
- Scratch: Teachers gave this website for kindergarten through grade 12 that offers an adaptive sandbox tool a top five-star rating.
- Tickle: A free block coding iOs app with a top rating by teachers that has robots, drones and Arduinos for grades two through eight.
- MIT App Inventor: A website that helps kids learn how to build mobile apps that is free and gear for grades six through 12.
Text-Based Programming Basics for Beginners
- Mozilla X-Ray Goggles: A teacher rated five-star website that offers free lessons on coding with a remix tool that reveals coding for grades five through 12.
- Codeacademy: A four-star teacher rated website that offers free live feedback and hands-on coding lessons for grades seven through 12.
- Codea: An app for the iPad that offers real game programming for grades eight through 12 with a five-star teacher rating. Costs around $15.
- CodeCombat: A free game for grades seven through 12, this is a dungeon adventure game for Mac and Windows with a four-star teacher rating.
Toys That Teach: Cool Coding Games
- Code-A-Pillar: This is a caterpillar toy by Fisher Price that promotes fine motor skills, sequencing, critical thinking and memory that comes with eight parts that children can assemble in many ways, causing it to light up, make sounds and move in different directions for ages three to six.
- Puzzlets: STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) concepts are the basis for this game-toy for ages six and up, that teaches kids to think like a programmer using puzzle pieces or programming tiles they can manipulate on a play tray. Games like Cork the Volcano range in price and are available for android or iOs device.
- Dot and Dash: For ages eight and up, there’s Dot and Dash, created Wonder Workshop, teaches kids how to program and code using their various picture-based coding language apps with the end goal of making robots light up, play sounds and move. They work with iOs, Kindle and android, and accessories are available separately, like xylophone for Dash.
- Sphero SPRK+: For ages eight and up, this game incorporates digital and robotic technology using the updated Lightning Lab app to teach users programming while they use their latest transparent robot to navigate a maze, make sounds, try to paint and hundreds of other activities. It is available on android, iOs and Amazon Fire.
More E-Commerce Tools: Getting Into Graphics and More
Improving a site’s functionality is one thing, but selling online is a whole lot more than functionality. Modern virtual lemonade stands need to have good aesthetics to keep the readers interests.
- Gimp: Stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, a simple, open source free graphics design program with functions like Photoshop and migrates easily with it.
- BizKids Tools: Offers resources for starting a business, like The 4 P’s of Marketing, How to Be a Business Pro, a Sample Business Plan for Kids, as well as some profiles of real kids in business, and a guide for teaching the basics of making, spending, saving and investing money. It also has organized activities, like the Community Toolkit, Youth Financial Camp Toolkit and Life on the Edge Toolkit.
- DrawPlus Starter Edition: A free graphics design app that enable users to create print-ready artwork, 3D rendering and more, that is intuitive and comes with a variety of tools similar to Adobe Illustrator.
- easel.ly: A free application for making infographics, you get a large number of themes, objects, shapes and text.
In order to be successful in ecommerce, children need to first understand how money works; how to make it, save it, spend it and allocate it wisely. This education should start early and at home, and then continue through elementary and middle school – and all the way up through college. Our future lies in the bright, inquisitive minds of our youth, and all we have to do is light that entrepreneurial spark in them, send them down the right path and watch them grow into the successful e-commerce business people of tomorrow.