“I need a Popsicle!” How many times do families hear about these kinds of needs from their young children? You can help children understand the difference between a need and a want, yes, even at their young ages!
First, be sure you are always modeling the correct use of the terms. A need is something like water, nutritious food, a place to live, comfortable clothing, clean air, along with proper heath and dental care. We can all make a difference by saying things like, “We need food that will make us strong.” When it comes to that Popsicle or ice cream, use words like, “This is not something that we need. It will not help our bodies. It is a something we want.” Of course all children have wants and we can allow these but you will have fewer tantrums in stores if you help children understand the vocabulary.
One age-appropriate way to do this is to use animals in your activities and in your discussions about needs. Walking outdoors can be helpful when learning the difference between a want and a need. You can point out birds that are looking for earthworms. Having a discussion about birds that NEED to eat worms is a way to help children understand needs. Talk about other animals that need to eat other food.
Show children pictures such as the ones below. You can print these and have children add the needs of each animal such as food, shelter, and proper habitat. This invites children to think about what animals really need. Not to mention, it stimulates critical and creative thought. They have the opportunity to consider the needs of various animals.
You can then ask a child, “Do you really need a Popsicle or do you want a Popsicle?” the next time he or she is on the verge of a tantrum!
NAEYC – 2.A.10; 2.B.02; 2.B.03; 2.D.06; 2.G.06; 2.L.10.
Head Start – I.B.4; II.A.1; VI.A; XI.B.1.