Todd Christensen Profile Picture
Staff Writer at Debt Reduction Services

Teaching Tools: Using a Game to Warn Kids about Debt

During the week of Monday, August 7 through Friday, August 11, I volunteered through the Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition (Idaho’s chapter of the National Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy) to facilitate a financial game at the Idaho Food Bank’s daily Picnic in the Park. The Food Bank provides free brown bag lunches to any child who wants one at more than a dozen city parks and facilities during the summer.

Teaming up with the Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition, Debt Reduction Services, Inc. provided a fun and active financial literacy activity for nearly three dozen children, ages 3-17.

The Game of Debt Ball

Teach Kids about Debt while Having FunAs educators at Debt Reduction Services and as parents ourselves, we understand that helping kids learn about finances can be a daunting task. “DEBT ball” is the latest game that we have come up with to engage even young children in hard-to-understand financial topics. It is sure to instill an important message about debt while they enjoy a good time. After all, learning can be fun, too.

DEBT ball is a take off of the erstwhile popular playground game, SPUD. It’s a combination of Red Rover, Dodgeball, and Horse. The educational objective is to teach kids to dodge debt. The goal for participants is not to earn the four letters of D-E-B-T. The last child to avoid doing this, wins the game!


Here are the simple steps:

  1. Prepare sticky labels with numbers. Pass a number out to each child. Then, have participants gather around the referee in a circle (though not too tight, since they will need to run away and you don’t want anyone trampled on).
  2. The referee tosses the ball straight up in the air and calls out a number on one of the children’s tags.
  3. While all of the other children scatter and try to run as far away as possible, the child whose number was called tries to get to the ball as soon as possible. As soon as the child touches the DEBT ball, the referee yells, “DEBT!” and all children stop running and stand still. They are not allowed to move their feet until the end of this round (though they may bend and twist and duck).
  4. The child with the ball now throws the DEBT ball at another player of his choice. If the DEBT ball touches another child before it touches the ground, that touched child has been “Hit by Debt” and earns a letter from D-E-B-T.
  5. Whether a child receives a letter or not, the children all return to the circle and the referee begins again at step 2.
  6. If you so choose, you can make stickers that say, “Knocked out by DEBT” to give to all children who earn all four D-E-B-T letters.

Consider ways to involve children with different disabilities such as having them help toss the ball, call “DEBT,” put on stickers, or choose the number to call.

The Materials/Equipment

Use Games to Teach Kids about FinancesSet up is easy and materials should be less than $10 at a thrift store or $20 new. They include:

  • The DEBT ball: Ideally money-green, with the word “DEBT” written on it using a permanent marker. I also added a money superhero graphic created a few years ago.
  • A self-adhesive tag for each child, with a unique number on it. Ideally, start with 1 and go up.
  • Referee uniform: for large groups of children, you may want to be the referee to ensure children are not taking steps they shouldn’t.
  • A sign or two with “DEBT ball” printed on it to post at the game site and draw in the kids from the playground.

That’s it! Children of all ages, from 3-17 enjoy the activity. If you would like to play this same game with children in your life or at schools and other locations, you are more than welcome to do so. We just ask that you identify Debt Reduction Services, Inc. of Boise, Idaho as the source of the game.

Debt Ball can help kids understand that debt is undesirable and also be the beginning of their journey towards becoming financially educated. To continue the learning, look to additional online resources, such as this fun article by, for lessons on saving, wise spending, investing, and budgeting for charitable giving.

Do You Have Questions About or Suggestions on How to Engage Children in Financial Learning Opportunities?

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If you’d like more information on teaching kids about finances, avoiding or resolving debt, or have tips to share with others, please feel free to comment below!

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6213 N. Cloverdale Rd. Suite 100 Boise, ID 83713

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