Teaching Children the Difference Between Wants and Needs

Teaching Children the Difference between Needs and Wants


Although our boys are relatively good about not constantly asking for stuff, I want them to know the difference between “needs” and “wants”. “Needs” are the things that we rely on to live (comfortably). “Wants” are not essential to our life, health, or hygiene; they are just things we would like to have.


No matter how much or how little we have, everyone wrestles with this issue (adults included). With all the poverty and suffering around the world, I want our children to have a realistic perspective on what we should feel entitled to (news flash:  not much). And am I the only person whose blood boils when this commercial comes on TV???


Here’s what you’ll need:  magazines and flyers, scissors, glue, and a large piece of white paper (I used our fingerpaint paper).






1. Make two columns with “Needs” on one side and “Wants” on the other.




2. Look through the magazines and mailers together with your child and talk about things we need and things we want.





 Continue cutting…





Needs:  Bread, Toothpaste & Toothbrush, Socks, Sunscreen, Vitamins, Cereal, Dish Soap, Coat, Milk, and Blueberries.

Wants:  Bat Cave, Cookies, Soccer Foosball Table, Lightning McQueen Toy, Golden Key?, Pizza, Veggie Tales movie, Waterpik Flosser, Blocks.




Because a person “needs” to have Palmolive prominently present in their life. :)




Big Brother is really interested in his oral hygiene…he “wants” a Kids WaterPik Flosser! :)


I decided that I should give this a shot too…it would be good for my perspective as well!

My Needs:  Healthy food (fruits, vegetables, nuts), exercise, “A Good Night Sleep”, and my home.

My Wants:  Sonic Dr. Pepper, (all. the. time.), Awesome abs, and a white sofa. Because everyone knows that having a white sofa is an excellent idea with two rambunctious boys.



How do you teach your child the difference between wants and needs???


  1. Wed, May 8, 2013 at 2:47 PM2:47 PMMessage starred FROM Christy Pair TO You [No Subject] Show Details FromChristy Pair ToChristy Pair While teaching first grade I taught needs as potatoes- inexpensive, filling, easy to prepare, very basic. I taught wants as the gravy on the potatoes- as an “extra” item. We talked about this some in reference to clothing. One year I was wearing a holiday bedazzled sweater that my mil had bought for me. One of the little guys came up to me that morning with disgust and said “That sweater is SOOOO gravy.” One of my all time fav teaching stories- I knew he understood the lesson!
    Just had to share!

  2. I love your posts you have given me so many ideas and encouragement as a stay at home mum of 2. The issue of need and wants is just beginning present itself in our home so found this article timely. Your passion for teaching your children is beautiful and I thank you for sharing a little of it with me.

  3. Brilliant idea! This fits in well with the school curriculum studies on the three R’s (emphasis on REDUCE – stewardship of our Earth – etc.
    This will make an excellent group activity (more curriculum coverage) in the classroom which will stimulate conversation.
    -can be expanded to a writing activity (more curriculum coverage)

  4. Excellent post that is not just for kids, but useful for adults to try also. The more we can teach our children about what is realistic in life the better off they will be. Sometimes as adults we need to take a second look and make sure we are on the right path as well. With my kids we were always honest and up front. When they would ask for things growing up we would always respond with a question of was it a need or was it a want. It really helped them learn to differentiate on what the important choices are in life. My oldest son is 23 and a few weeks ago he stopped by to share a story about being at the mall and getting ready to make some purchases. He said he could hear me in the back of his mind asking him if he needed the items or did he just want them. We shared a good laugh and he hugged me and thanked me for helping show him what was best and important in life.

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