The Difference Between Wants and Needs

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The Difference Between Wants and Needs

People earn, save, and spend money to satisfy their needs and wants. Making the right choice between the two is not always easy. Your students are taken to an enchanted island where the 'Genie of Wise Choices' lives. The children discover the importance of making good choices as they are faced with the difficult task of choosing between an essential need or a desired want. Water, food, clothing, shelter, and clean air are all introduced and discussed as they learn about the difference between a need and a want.

Some things people want. Some things people must have are called needs. Needs must be met before wants.

  1. Students will understand the difference between wants and needs. A want is anything that a person does not need, but would like to have. A need is anything that a person must have to live a comfortable, healthy, and safe life.
  2. Students will know about the many needs that humans require.
    1. Clothing is extremely important, because people rely on clothes to protect them from the elements. People need to maintain a healthy body temperature; clothes help the body maintain that temperature. For example, in the frigid winter, a sweater will keep the body warm, and in the warm summer, a pair of shorts will allow the body to cool off. There are different kinds of clothes required for different jobs. A firefighter, for example, will wear a heavy jacket to protect his or her body from the intense heat of a fire.
    2. Nutritious food is another requirement for survival. Fruits and vegetables provide the body with vitamins. Meats, breads, and dairy products furnish the body with proteins and minerals. Food also provides the body with the energy it needs to perform activities. However, food can also be a want; candy for example, is food that people want to eat, but they do not need to eat.
    3. Clean water is an important need because people use water to drink and to wash. The human body is 86% water and its water supply must constantly be replenished. People must also remain clean, and water is an excellent medium for washing. Unfortunately, the earth's water supply is becoming polluted, and unsanitary water can make people sick; consequently, the government regulates the water supply to make sure it meets safety standards. Another important use for water is transportation.
    4. People need clean air in order to breathe, so there are laws that are meant to prevent the earth's air supply from becoming overly polluted.
    5. Shelter is a need, because it protects people from uncomfortable weather, and keeps them safe. It makes no difference whether one's home is a hut or a castle, because every person needs a safe place to eat, rest, wash, and play. A shelter usually matches the surrounding area's climate and landforms. People who live near a river, for example, may build their homes on stilts, which will keep the homes out of the water when there is a flood.
    6. Rules are also a need for all communities of people, because they make sure that everything operates safely and smoothly. For example, rules that tell people when to cross the street and tell them not to litter were designed to keep people and the environment safe.

  1. Before viewing the video

    1. Ask the following questions: What would happen if we suddenly had no more water on the earth? What if there were no more air? What if we had no more food — just televisions, computers, and toys? How do clothes help us? What if there was no place to sleep? This video is going to tell more about these things.
  2. After viewing the video

    1. Things We Need: Have your students write down the things that people really need in order to live and be healthy. Compare the lists. They should include clean air, clean water, good food, clothing, shelter, and rules (this might require further discussion). Select students to tell why each of the above needs is very important to people. Fold a sheet of drawing paper into fourths. Number the sections from one to four. Have the students write their names on the back. Do this together. In Section 1 draw water and air. In Section 2 draw several healthy foods. In Section 3 draw pictures of summer and winter clothing. In Section 4 have each student draw their shelter — where they live. Print Needs on the middle of the page. Older students can write a sentence under each picture.
    2. Things We Want: Divide another paper as above and draw four things you really want, but don't have to have on this sheet. Older students may write a brief paragraph rather than drawing pictures — or do both. Print Wants in the middle of this sheet.
    3. Have a Quiz Show as demonstrated in the video. Review it briefly. Have younger students tell someone and older students write it themselves one sentence about something they want or need, without using those two words. Print on cards to use in the show.

  • ID: A5701
  • Subject: Economics
  • Grade Level: 0-3