Home > Move over, Elmo DMX, Here come Toy ATMs

Move over, Elmo DMX, Here come Toy ATMs

February 6th, 2007 at 06:52 pm

My parents and I recently received, via email, a rather unusual request from my older sister. She wrote, "(when you come visit in May) do you think you can bring that popular toy ATM? The kids would love it." An ATM?? Did my little nephews and niece not want a PS3 or Elmo-3000 (or whatever its called) instead? Befuddled, I conducted a quick google search and discovered much to my surprise that the toy ATM was one of the most popular toys for Christmas 2006.

Reading into the article, I noticed some points that were a cause of much concern:

"Unlike in a real ATM, a cash drawer opens in the toy ATM, allowing an avaricious child to grab every last cent and run." Hoooooo boy, I'm sure the writer of the article meant that to be tongue-in-cheek humorous, but I sure don't like the image of a bunch of greedy little kids. But, as the inventor of the toy, Michael Searl, points out, "If nothing else, we are teaching them one simple concept: You gotta make money before you take money out." In other words, ATM doesn't automatically put money in your account; money has to be put into ATM by a human being, first.

The question is: Who's going to provide that money?

According to the item's description at the Toys "R" Us website, the toy ATM is meant for ages 8 and up. Hmmm, as I recall, I was still a pigtailed grade school kid at that age, more concerned with making friends than making money. Then again, kids these days are maturing at a (frighteningly) rapid rate. But still, the minimum work age is years beyond the tender age of 8. Thus, the main source of "income" for an 8 yr old is gonna be.....dear Mom and Dad.

Yes, despite claims that the toy ATM will teach kids financial responsibility, it's still going to be up to parents to enforce good financial habits upon their kids. Ideally, the child will perform some chore or task. Mom and dad will "reward" them with an allowance. The child would then take it and deposit it into the ATM. Later, when the child needs money, he/she will go to the toy ATM instead of to Mom and Dad.

Yeah, right. How many people instead see the following scenario develop? Child gets a rather overwhelming allowance from mom and dad, for doing nothing. Child races to the ATM toy to deposit the money, is not satisfied with the balance displayed, and runs back to demand more money from mom and dad. Why? Not just because child needs those Air Jordans, but because child feels "entitled" to more. Child sees ATM as money-access vehicle to be kept full by mom and dad.

Maybe I have a rather negative POV; my opinion is skewwed since I do not have children. But here's what I think needs to be done in order for a child to fully benefit from playing with the ATM toy. Mom and dad need to teach the child how much money is "enough" for the child. Somehow, parents should instill in the child a realistic view of how much money the kid needs, not how much he/she wants. For example, if the child sometimes stops by the Wawa for a snack, then having $10-$20 in their ATM toy should be a sufficient. If the kid is whining, then parents might show the kid the cost of monthly utilities and mortgage, compare that to junior's weekly hot dog and soda budget.

If parents avoid making their own "contributions" in excess of what their kids earn to the toy ATM- if the child is given full responsibility for what goes IN (and thus comes out) to the ATM- then perhaps the toy can be effective in teaching kids that in order to spend gotta save it, first.

2 Responses to “Move over, Elmo DMX, Here come Toy ATMs”

  1. creditcardfree Says:

    We gave this to our daughter for Christmas...she's going on ten years old. It is a bit odd, but she uses at as a safe place to store her money from her sister. It keeps a running tally of her balance. I think it's just new take on the "cash register's" we may have had as children. Trust daughter knows where money comes from...and she works for most of hers.

    I do appreciate your point of view. Thanks for the blog.

  2. mbkonef Says:

    I have four children (ages 7 to 16) and have heard of these but not seen them. My kids get a small allowance (50cents per year of age) and the older two 13 & 16 earn money pet sitting, baby sitting etc. I just think of these as a new fangled "bank" like the little metal ones or even piggy banks many of us had as kids. I don't see any harm, but then again, my kids do not look at us as the bank of mom and dad. If they want to spend money on something as a treat for themselves, they know that they must save their money or do extra chores around the house (above and beyond their usual) to earn some extra money. I think its' value will ultimately come down to the values that the parents are teaching the kids anyway. If kids see mom and dad treat the ATM/credit cards as a never ending source of money, they will see this in the same way. If they see mom and dad making spending choices and spending responsibly, this is probably just a very fancy piggy bank in disguise.

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