Needs and Wants


1. To help students understand the difference between needs and wants

2. To assist students in recognizing that needs and wants can be different for people living in other parts of the world

Subject Area

English Language Arts (K-12), Social Studies (2), Foods and Nutrition (5-8), Clothing and Textiles (5-8)


  • What do you need money for?
  • What do you want money for?
  • In your view, what percentage of money should be allocated toward the needs in life (food, shelter and basic clothing), and how much should be put toward the wants?
  • Do we all have the same needs? Do we all have the same wants?
  • Is it easier for some people to satisfy their needs than it is for others?
  • Have needs and wants changed over time?
  • Why can't we always have what we want?
  • Why is it hard to accept "no" as a response when we want something?
  • Should children always get what they want? Does it help if an adult explains why a child can't have what they want?



Length: 1 hour
Materials: Survival Handouts, a variety of items from the classroom (chalk, white board, paper, markers, etc.) or home, dictionaries.

  • Collect a variety of items from around the school that represent needs and wants. Get the kids to help you separate them into one need pile and one want pile, then have them explain why each item belongs in the pile it's in.
  • Divide the kids into five groups and give each group one of the Survival Handouts. Each handout has a different scenario and a list of items for students to categorize as either a need or a want.
  • After 30 minutes, each group will present their scenario, explain how they categorized their items and why they made the choices that they did. Alternatively, you can provide an opportunity for a gallery walk; groups could present their information on poster paper, then circulate and look at the groups' posters, leaving comments on whether they agree or disagree with the other groups' choices.


  • Kids can take inventory of what is in their own homes. Have them pick a room and list as many items as they can, designating each as a need or a want. Have the students complete the Needs or Wants Handout.

Collaborative Feedback

  • What did they notice about their lists? Which rooms had more needs and which had more wants?
  • What was the best buy they've ever made, and what was the worst? Were those purchases wants or needs? Have the students complete the Best Buy, Worst Buy Handout.

Teacher Tips

  • Needs and wants are different for people all over the world. Have students learn more about the needs and wants of someone living in a different country by visiting the websites of organizations like UNICEF or World Vision.

Pre- and Post-Assessment of Lesson

  • What can you tell me about needs and wants?
  • What did you learn about needs and wants?