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Hotwheels or Matchbox cars introduce children to the world of finance while providing a great outlet for deconstruction tendencies that help them learn scientific concepts of cause & effect, and lifeskills such as "my behavior has consequences". In other words, insist that your young man work to earn that $1 he needs next time to buy the little car he intends to smash with a hammer - he'll learn the value of time and money a lot faster, and pride in ownership as well, if you just let him do it and work it out of his system. Of course you can afford it, but that would be missing the larger point and the greater teaching opportunity. And just in case this is the beginning of a lifelong car habit, you'll be making clear from the beginning who is going to support that habit - and it won't be you!

Once he has moved through the bashing-with-hammers stage, he'll probably want every Hotwheel he sees and again, this is a good time to begin introducing the concept of working to earn money for the things you need or want. Soon enough, skills in shrewd negotiating will begin to emerge as he makes complicated trades with friends to improve his collection, while also accidentally improving his math and social skills.

It's never too young to learn that money does not grow on trees and that you'll need to trade your time for money to pay for what you need or want. Most young children start getting interested in a collection of little cars when they are about 3 or 4 years old, and that is plenty old enough to start doing small odd jobs for cash. Whenever possible, coordinate with your network of friends so that someone else is hiring your child, rather than you, so they get a variety of real-world experiences, and so no one person feels all the financial strain. These early odd jobs can lead to higher-paying work later, as your child becomes a better employee and more skilled in a variety of areas. He or she may soon need a set of business cards!
Even though they are small, Hotwheels and Matchbox cars and other similar little vehicles are full of great detail. There are many ways to sort a group of cars other than "ones I like and ones I don't" and over time a group of friends will sort and resort the pile in many different ways, by color, make, model, seats, style, wheels and various other ways. Learning to observe details closely is important in all areas of life and knowing how to re-sort the same group in a variety of ways is an important early math skill. Counting skills will improve dramatically when two friends are trying to be fair about making sure everyone has the same number of cars, and comparing quantities happens quite often (you have more than me!). Finally, if you add a measuring tape or yard stick to the cars, along with a long flat piece of wood for a ramp, everyone will enjoy seeing which car rolls the farthest and learning to read numbers from the measuring tool. These math lessons may be loud and messy, but they are more fun than worksheets, for sure!

Suggested books about Early Math Skills.
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