Tuesday, 27 July 2021 19:19

Staff Reporter.

This National Savings Month, Sanlam has launched its Sanlam Savings Jar – an interactive app that introduces children to the wonder of saving.

The free, first-of-its-kind app helps little ones start a journey of financial confidence by setting them on the path to savvy savings habits for life.

Children become young dragon masters embarking on a fantastical quest.

The more they save, the more their mystical dragon grows.

Gamification is used to incentivise goal setting and bring the topic of saving to life.

The app – which is available on iOS and Android – is an informational tool for parents seeking to introduce their children to smart money behaviours.

It forms part of Sanlam’s longstanding purpose to target financial literacy to empower more people to live with confidence, go after their goals and believe they can create a better life for themselves.

This doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey, which starts in childhood.

Therefore Sanlam has consistently fostered foundational financial and numeracy skills in young people, through various initiatives, including a 21-year relationship with Takalani Sesame.

Mariska Oosthuizen, Head of Brand at Sanlam, said, “We know that gamification is a powerful means to educate young people. The Sanlam Savings Jar breaks down basic financial concepts, like planning, goal setting, needs versus wants, and appreciation of money and how to earn it. It’s critical to teach children these concepts early on as habits are formed from as young as seven.

Research has shown that South Africa has a notoriously poor savings culture. We hope this app gets the whole family talking about money – a topic that’s often taboo. Our goal is for it to improve families’ financial confidence and success. This has been an underlying theme in all our previous Savings Month campaigns, from 'Conspicuous Savers' to the famed 'One Rand Man'. We consistently use the currency of creativity to attempt to reach people in meaningful, innovative ways. It’s important to note the Sanlam Savings Jar teaches children savings habits through virtual 'treasure', rather than actually asking people to save in the current, difficult Covid-19 climate."

Gamification means better learning outcomes

Gamification has long been seen as a silver bullet of sorts when it comes to educational outcomes. Multiple studies point to improved engagement and learning.

The Smithsonian Science Education Centre says gamification stimulates more activity in the regions of the brain that facilitate cognitive development.

So-called ‘brain games’ improve the brain’s processing and information retention. Crucially, children learn more because they want to stick with the learning task for longer.

Marilize Botha, occupational therapist, says that gamification works well because the focus shifts from expectations to fun, "That’s when we learn and retain information much more easily. For example, when children play games like hopscotch, they’re learning maths without being aware of it."

She says apps work when they have a competitive component, “For example, a child has to apply the learned skill to reach their goal. That’s when the repetition aspect lays down and consolidates the skill.” In Sanlam Savings Jar, saving is the skill reinforced through rewarded repetition.

This instant feedback loop is another key part to gamification’s success. With the Sanlam Savings Jar, the closer children get to their goal, the more powerful their dragon grows. The behaviour merits a tangible reward. Pavlovian and powerful, this kind of conditioning helps habits to form.

The Sanlam Savings Jar app also allows little ones to learn anywhere, in their own time and on their terms. And it is accessible. The proliferation of mobile means young people are familiar with smart phones almost from the get-go. So, it makes sense to reach them with fresh learning opportunities through a medium they’re active on.

Botha adds that play is pivotal to learning, “It’s the main functional task every child must engage in to acquire new skills. In the 'space' of playing, children experience the freedom to try – and sometimes also fail – to gain a new skill in a stress-free environment.”

Apps can provide powerful platforms for play. Botha advises that when choosing an educational app, parents ask whether it will help a child to learn a contributing life skill and if the child will experience gratification through the learning process. The Sanlam Savings Jar was designed to make learning as fun and effortless as possible.

Oosthuizen concludes, "In 2021, we rebooted our business and brand to become a purpose-driven organisation focused on giving millions of Africans the chance to live with financial confidence. The Sanlam Savings Jar is one of several initiatives that is strongly driving this purpose. It builds on our long journey in the lives of South African children, led by a 21-year partnership with Takalani Sesame and our Foundation’s work in schools and communities. To date, we’ve invested R209 million in Takalani Sesame alone."