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Teaching Wants vs. Needs

Driving around with my son recently, we started to have a conversation about Wants and Needs. Now, to a five-year-old boy, it can be a tad tricky trying to explain the distinction between these ideas! Getting that new stuffy is a NEED {or so he says!} not just a want!

While we may think that Wants and Needs is just another Social Studies concept to tick off in our plans, it’s actually crucial for developing financial literacy, empathy, and decision-making skills as our students grow up.

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Start the discussion in your classroom by defining wants and needs in the simplest terms.

Needs are things we must have to live and stay healthy, like food, water, shelter, and clothing.

Wants, on the other hand, are things we would like to have but don’t need to survive, such as toys, video games, or candy.

Hang up the definitions for students to see.


There are some great picture books to use with your class to drive home this concept.

I recently added Wants vs. Needs vs. Robots to my classroom library. Students LOVE these robots {we also have the Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots, too!}

Cloverleaf Books are a wonderful series of fictional books that teach important life skills and lessons. Lily Learns about Wants and Needs is a perfect introduction to this concept.

Need it or Want It? is a simple non-fiction book about this skill. Real pictures make the concepts very clear for young learners.

Brain Pop Jr.

Annie and Moby always do a great job explaining challenging concepts in simple-to-understand terms for young kids. This lesson has extension activities, too!

A Simple Video

Teaching without Frills created a fabulous video clearly explaining the concept in simple terms.

Wants & Needs Activities

To make teaching this concept easier for you, I’ve gathered a few activities in one resource for you to use that will certainly help your students master this foundational skill.

This Wants and Needs pack includes ALL you’ll need to teach this skill.

• Posters

• Picture Card Sort

• Wants & Needs Sort
• 2 Draw Your Own Wants & Needs Printable

Teaching your young learners about Wants and Needs is not just an academic exercise—it’s a life skill! By introducing these concepts in a way that is understandable and relatable, we can help our students begin to navigate the complex world of financial literacy and personal responsibility.

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