Define Wants and Needs
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Explain the difference between wants and needs.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.13 Describe limited resources and scarcity.

Children compare wants and needs and create a collage of wants and needs. Students clarify their understanding and interpretation of wants and needs as they compare their wants and needs with others in the room and in the world. They respond to the story Sam and the Lucky Money. Children start to reflect on ways they can empathize with and help people who have different needs than their own.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session

The learner will:

  • define wants and needs.
  • identify four ways to manage money and time.
  • create collages of wants and needs.
  • respond to literature with personal reflection and discussion of choices.
  • read aloud copy of the book Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chin
  • magazines for cutting
  • glue sticks, scissors
  • Chart paper for group collage

Chin, Karen. Sam and the Lucky Money. Lee and Low Books (reprint edition), 1997. ISBN: 1880000539

  1. Anticipatory Set:

    There are many things we each want (name some ideas for a minute). Needs are a special kind of want; they are what we must have to survive, such as food, water, and shelter.

  2. Provide magazines, scissors, and glue. Have children cut pictures from magazines that are examples of personal wants and needs. Draw a line down the middle of a large chart paper. Label one half "needs" and the other half "wants." Have them paste pictures of needs on one half and pictures of wants on the other half. Talk about their choices as they paste them on the chart. 

  3. Differentiation: This activity may be altered to be done as a whole-class collage, or children may work in small groups.

  4. Display the collages on the wall. Discuss their understanding of the difference between wants and needs. Are needs and wants the same for everyone? What does it look like to be kind and respectful about our differences? Share an example of being curious about differences rather than seeing difference (or unfamiliarity) as "weird." Example: "Tell me about your lunch; that looks interesting." 

  5. Looking at the collages, notice that nobody can have everything they want, so we make choices about how we spend our time and money. There are four things we can do:

    • Save: to keep or put aside for future use
    • Invest: to put resources, such as money, in an account or in an organization for the purpose of growing the resources’ value and/or impact
    • Spend: to use money or time for something you want or need
    • Donate: to give time, talent or treasure with no expectation of something in return
  6. Introduce the book Sam and the Lucky Money. This is a book about a young boy going shopping in Chinatown with his mom. He receives a gift of “lucky money” that he can spend any way he chooses. Sam soon finds he doesn't have enough to get what he wants, so he makes one of the choices above. 

  7. Read aloud the book Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chin. Ask children to listen for examples of wants and needs and the choices Sam must make with his limited money.

    1. What are some of Sam's wants?
    2. What are some of his needs?
    3. How did Sam finally spend his money? Why did he make that choice?
    4. Did he save, spend, donate, or invest?
    5. The last sentence in the story says: “As they headed home for more New Year’s celebration, Sam knew he was the lucky one.” What do you think this means?

Children reflect on the choices available to them and recognize that they have resources that may not be available to others. Discuss whether sharing with others is a good choice when they don't have everything they need or want. Discuss why or why not.