American parents feel they're more prepared to talk to their children about drugs and alcohol or sex and dating than money and finances, according to recent Harris Interactive poll.
As families struggle to have the "money talk" with their children, ING DIRECT, the nation's largest direct bank, is hoping to make that conversation easier with Planet Orange, a newly designed virtual web experience for children that makes learning about money entertaining and educational.
Planet Orange, found at orangekids.com, gives children a chance to embark on a variety of targeted space missions and discover the importance and value of money along with personal finance lessons through fun and engaging games and activities.
Planet Orange emerges at a time when many parents feel unprepared to talk about finances. However, a recent survey conducted by ING DIRECT found that 94 percent of parents believe that they are responsible for educating their children about the importance of money. The survey also showed that 96 percent of parents feel financial education should be taught in school, causing teachers to need age appropriate -- and engaging -- 'money' activities.
"To improve our kids' financial futures, parents and educators must have the resources to start teaching money-saving lessons at an early age," said Arkadi Kuhlmann, President of ING DIRECT. "Nine out of ten parents and teachers who visited www.orangekids.com, told us they felt confident in using the adventures to teach children about money and would highly recommend it be used at home and in the classroom."
While on Planet Orange, children in grades one through six can rocket through space to four different continents that teach the fundamentals of earning, saving, spending and investing. The interactive, space-themed website comes fully equipped with a Teacher's Resource Center that includes teacher tutorials, free lesson plans that comply with most state standards, and supplemental information and tools to enhance the learning experience.
The Planet Orange space missions allow children to select and steer their astronaut through four quirky cities on Planet Orange. Space travelers must "earn" the money to fuel their space ships and can only "purchase" items for their space ship if their budget permits. Through the able assistance of space guides Cedric and Amy, adventures begin on Mandarin Mountains, the planet that teaches the value and importance of money. Tangy Town is the second stop where children learn about budgeting, banking and paychecks. Naval City makes children aware of credit, interest and inflation. The last stop, Orangeopolis, introduces investing, stocks, diversification and risk. After the tasks are completed on each continent, the children are given a brief quiz of lessons learned and earn a certificate for answering all the questions correctly.
On breaks between missions, Planet Orange travelers can hang out at their space station and spend Obux -- Planet Orange outer space money -- on games, decorations and costumes for their avatar astronaut. When Obux run low, there are always plenty of ways to earn more.
Planet Orange was first launched by ING DIRECT in 2002 and was recognized as a "Best Bet" by USA TODAY and named 'Best of the Web' by Forbes.com. The site was also recognized at the W3 Awards, which celebrate creative excellence on the Internet, gaining a gold in the "Family/Parenting" category and silver in the "Education" category. The redesigned Planet Orange adventure provides parents, educators, and children enhanced learning tools and games.