The introduction to this lesson is a brief online story about a little girl’s visit to a pet store with her father. She considers several pets before choosing a “cute and cuddly” dog. Students are reminded that pet owners are responsible for keeping their pets safe, healthy and happy. A discussion of a pet owners desire to provide the best for their pets leads to an exploration of people’s wants. The activities that follow challenge students to explore the wants of a pet owner and their desire to provide the best for their pet fish, and then the wants of a person. The students learn that the ability to discover their wants will help them establish priorities when they are faced with scarcity. During the evaluation process, students identify some of their personal wants. As a class, they discuss why some choices are the same and others are different. They take the discussion a step further exploring how their wants compare with those of siblings and adults in their lives. They discover that age, lifestyle, likes (tastes and preferences) and what one views as important (values) help to explain the differences.


Choice, Decision Making, Economic Wants, Scarcity


  • Identify economic wants of pet owners.
  • Experience scarcity when making choices.
  • Explain why people have different economic wants.


Have students read the story, "The Perfect Pet ".

Then discuss, "Do you have a dog or know someone else who does?" If you do, you know that adopting a dog means more than just finding an animal that is cute and cuddly. You have to care for it. Pets depend on their owners to provide the goods and services that keep them healthy and happy. These things are called economic wants.bull dog


  • The Perfect Pet: Here is an online story about a little girl who goes to a pet store to find the perfect pet.
  • The Economic Wants of Pet Owner: Start off the lesson by reading this story with your students. You can project this activity and read the text to the students.
    Interactive Activity
  • Costs of A Fish: Have students imagine the girl in the story, "A Perfect Pet" picked a fish instead of a dog as her new pet. Direct students to look at the items she wants for her fish as identified in this interactive drag and drop activity.
    Interactive Activity


Activity 1

Read to or have students read the flash activity economic wants of pet owners. Use the text and questions in the THINK ABOUT IT section of the student version as the basis for a discussion on economic wants and scarcity.  What things would you want for your pet? [Potential responses include: food, water, shelter, health care, exercise, treats, costumes, beds, a leash and collar, etc. ]

Few pet owners have enough money to buy everything they want for their pets. This is called a scarcity problem. Scarcity forces people to make choices.

  • If you could buy just five of the many things at the pet store for your new dog, what would you buy? [Responses will vary.]

[Note: If time allows, you may want to have students write a list or draw pictures of the five items they would choose in response to this question. Have several students share their choices with classmates to help illustrate the point that students - and people, in general - have different economic wants.]

  • Which of your choices are the same as those of your classmates? [Responses will vary.]
  • Why do you think these choices were the same? [Responses will probably center on the fact that dogs must have certain things to be healthy and survive. Some students may also point out that they simply liked (valued) some of the same things.]
  • Which of your choices are different? [Responses will vary.]
  • Why do you think that these choices were different? [Students may point out that they already have some of the things they want for their pet. Others may explain that they simply liked (valued) some things more than others.]

Activity 2

Have students imagine the girl in the story, "A Perfect Pet" picked a fish instead of a dog as her new pet. Direct students to look at the items she wants for her fish as identified in the interactive activity. Announce that like most people, the little girl has a scarcity problem. She has only $5.00 to make her purchases. Direct students to choose the things they would purchase with the little girl's $5.00.fat dog


Have students give reasons for their choices in Activity 2. For younger students,this may be an oral report. Older students can write sentences or paragraphs citing their choices and reasons for their choices.


Ask students to summarize the reasons people's choices are not always the same. Three factors to be identified include:

  1. Our personal preferences - what we like
  2. Our values - what we think is important
  3. Our haves - what we already own or have access to


  • “I absolutely love this lesson. As a dog owner, I really enjoyed this lesson. A class would find this lesson a lot of fun because most students will be able to relate and there are lots of fun activities to go along with the lesson.”

    Christina, Philadelphia, PA   POSTED ON October 27, 2004

  • “This is a good lesson. I will use this for my second graders!”

    Jessica Manley, Morehead, KY   POSTED ON November 3, 2004

  • “Great lesson! I really needed something to enhance my social studies lesson. Thanks!”

    Lisa Sessions, Albany, LA   POSTED ON December 31, 2004

  • “This is a neat lesson.”

    Tim Lamas   POSTED ON February 2, 2005

  • “Awesome site! Very helpful.”

    Debbie Hessner, South Amboy, NJ   POSTED ON March 11, 2005

  • “This lesson addressed the four key concepts on a very basic level. It exposes children to economics using a topic they can relate to. Our group felt this lesson could be expanded with the following activities: graphing student's pets for comparisons and contrasts; research costs and needs of different pets; elaboration on each key concept with specific points and tie-ins at a more concrete level; bringing a pet (or stuffed animal) to school that each child must take care of throughout the day with fake money to purchase food, medical, and other supplies while writing about the events of the day they experienced; and setting up a classroom pet shop filled with a variety of animals, supplies, and materials needed as a pet owner.”

    Jake, Rachel, Tara, Katie, Jennifer, & Stephanie, Toppenish, WA   POSTED ON April 30, 2005

  • “Great lesson!”

    Shelley, Ashland,OH   POSTED ON September 1, 2005

  • “Thank you for uploading such important exercises in economic education for children. Countries such as mine will be enriched with these lessons.”

    Veronica Huacuaj, Mexico City   POSTED ON January 1, 2007

  • “It was great! It makes me want to go get a pet!”

    Nicollette Hickey, Battle Creek, MI   POSTED ON January 6, 2007

  • “I absolutely love this lesson. I am going to use some ideas for my project at the university for teaching social studies class.”

    Iwona, Chicago, IL   POSTED ON May 15, 2007

  • “This lesson is going to be really fun to teach. I don't have a computer, so I have to do a lot of the activities on construction paper. But I know its going to be fun, especially the story "The Perfect Pet," plus that fun game with the fish bowl where you only have five dollars. I hope all goes well in my teaching!”

    Michelle Alveraz, Hanfort   POSTED ON November 3, 2007

  • “We really like the activity and the ideas behind it. However, we would not use the story. It goes quite fast and doesn't really require much reading from the students. The money activity is very useful for this topic.”

    Gus B.   POSTED ON February 21, 2008

  • “I'm an Educational Technology Resource teacher and want to tell my elementary teachers about this site.”

    Linda Z., Louisville, KY   POSTED ON December 5, 2008

  • “The online story is just the idea for a motivation on my pets lesson. As a education student, I need all the help I can get! I'll be sure to archive this because it's obviously a great cross-curricular lesson. Thanks a ton!”

    Ashlee N., Shreveport, LA   POSTED ON March 9, 2009

  • “I think the concept of the lesson is great and that it will capture the interest of students. However, the information on wants versus needs is inaccurately represented. The animals NEED food and water to survive. The animal owners WANT to provide item such as bedding and toys.”

    Lara S, Richmond, VA   POSTED ON October 31, 2009

  • “I have a question regarding the use of "not enough money" as an example of scarcity. I have been told to avoid the use of money as an example of scarcity. In economics, scarcity refers the inability to meet unlimited wants due to limited resources...natural, human, or capital. Money is not a resource and this could create misconceptions. Have I been incorrectly informed?”

    Kelly Gaideski, St. Joseph, MI   POSTED ON January 1, 2010

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