Matter of child's play

by Claire Low

Child gamesIN THE game of Monopoly anyone can be a real estate tycoon buying up whole streets, building houses only to tear them down to erect hotels, being thrown into jail more times than the hardest of criminals and extracting money from the hands of one’s opponents.

It’s fun and possibly educational as it requires strategy and mathematics. But does it actually teach the principles of the property market to its players? Award-winning auctioneer and real estate agent Mario Sanfrancesco of L.J. Hooker Tuggeranong confesses his six-year-old daughter often beats him at Junior Monopoly. “It gets [children] to understand the concept of purchasing and owning a house. It has been a start for her,” Sanfrancesco says. “When she gets pocket money, we talk about what she is saving up for. There’s the occasional lighthearted remark about saving up for a house, and she’s only six.”

He says that on the whole the game is unrealistic but on the other hand, “You do understand you own that land or square on the Monopoly board and it can generate income for you. It does give a bit of understanding.”

Two other real estate games, The Cashflow Quadrant Game and Cashflow 101, were invented by tycoon Robert Kiyosaki. The games are based on getting across the importance of getting out of the “rat race” through income-producing assets.

“It’s a fun little thing,” Sanfrancesco says.

He adds that just like the real market, Monopoly can be emotional and personality driven. However, “The true investor researches the market and makes decisions based on facts. It’s a business frame of mind different from ‘I’d better do this today because I want to win the game.”‘

Sanfrancesco plans to upgrade his daughter to standard Monopoly soon.

“I’m really concerned about how good she’s getting. I’d like to win occasionally.”

Laura Sibley, 12, of Fadden, comes from an enthusiastic Monopoly-playing household and says she would like to acquire real properties one day. Her real-life plan for buying real estate has a realistic slant she plans to rent initially. “It would be too much to buy a house straight off,” she says.

Her father David Sibley says, “I think it teaches the basic concepts of buying and selling property in a fun way. I don’t think it will give them any real-life sense of paying off a mortgage, however. It makes them aware there is a cost to buying property and it’s a big investment.

“Monopoly helps them make decisions, realise they need to strike a good deal and when they are offered deals to think it through and see what’s best for them. Hopefully another key thing they’ll learn is when the money’s gone, it’s gone.

“It teaches the long-term value of a property. They may not realise it at the time, but these games are helpful for getting them thinking about money and what they need to do to invest, buy and sell.”

Sibley says hotly contested competitions between siblings can echo a competitive market. “I guess competition between siblings should be managed just as competition is managed between people acquiring property,” he says. “Sometimes it means pulling out of a sale. Sometimes it means realising the other person is going to win the game.”