My Needs And Wants Essay

Lesson Summary


By examining the concept of "needs vs. wants," students learn that the things that make us happy are not necessarily things that cost money. Students will begin by discussing needs, wants, price, and value. Then they will watch the "Happiness" video, which will prompt further discussion and help students consider the relationship between consumer goods and happiness.

This lesson can stand alone, or you can follow it with the companion lesson, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.


  • Explain the difference between needs and wants, as well as price and value

Grade Level: 1–2

Suggested Time

  • One class period (30 minutes)

Media Resources

Use these resources to create a simple assessment or video-based assignment with the Lesson Builder tool on PBS LearningMedia.


  • For each student:
    • 10 index cards or small (approximately 4" x 6") pieces of paper
    • pen or pencil
  • Computer or projector capable of playing video

The Lesson

1. (Estimated time, steps 1–5: 15 minutes) Introduce the lesson by explaining that things we want are sometimes different from things we need. You can give examples, such as we need food, but we want ice cream.

2. Ask students to generate responses to the question, What things give us a happy life? (Note: You may want to create categories to help structure responses: things for our body, things for our mind, things for our community.) Students should write or draw each item on a separate index card or small piece of paper. If you wish, you may also provide cards with images (food, house, clothing) for students to use to sort into categories.

3. Divide the class into small groups. Ask each group to combine their cards and sort them into two categories: needs and wants. Students may debate whether something is a need or a want. Help students explore what is common to all people, and why some responses may differ from others. (Ask, for example, What things do we ALL need? Can you give me an example of something that some people may need or want but others don't?)

4. Have students sort again, but this time into two categories: things that make them happy and things that cost money. Students may find that some things fit into both categories. Allow students to discuss their ideas.

5. Draw a Venn diagram on the board. Label one circle "Things That Make Us Happy." Label the other "Things That Cost Money." (Explain how the Venn diagram works, if needed.) Have students place their words in the proper place on the diagram, explaining as needed.

6. (Estimated time: steps 6–10: 15 minutes) Tell students to imagine that they will have 60 seconds to take anything they want from a toy store. Now tell students they are going to watch a short video about three kids who had such a shopping spree.

7. Watch the Happiness Video completely through one time.

8. Then, watch the Happiness Video again, pausing when the characters are shopping. Ask students, What is Clementine doing?

9. After finishing the video, ask students, Why do you think Clementine won? Some students may not believe Clementine was happier than the kids who got a lot of stuff. If this debate emerges, direct students with the following questions:

  1. If you were in the video, what would be in your cart? (This directs students to identify WHAT exactly they want or need, moving them toward the realization that the boys weren't happy because they didn't know or value what they had.)
  2. If you got all of those things, which item do you think would make you the happiest? Why? What would you tell Clementine about why you like that item so much? How is it similar to or different from what she loved about the pencils?

10. Help students move toward the general idea that many things that make us happy don't always cost money, things that are expensive don't always make us happy, and more is not always better. To conclude, ask students how they would change the story so that the boys were happier. What would have to be different?

Check for Understanding

  1. Ask students to identify something they already have that they cherish; this may include a sibling or a pet, again reinforcing the idea that happiness isn't dependent upon a purchase.
  2. Ask students to bring in print advertisements for toys, and discuss these ads in class. Point out when an ad is unrealistic or promotes a stereotype. Use these questions for discussion prompts:
    1. What is the ad telling you about this toy? What part do you think is true? What do you think is false?
    2. Do you know of anyone who looks like that? who lives like that?


Lesson developed in collaboration with Creative Change Educational Solutions.

Want vs Need

When it comes to owning or acquiring certain things, people would often use the terms ‘want’ and ‘need’ interchangeably. In many cases, the manner in which people would use these two terms can lead one to perceive that these two have similar meanings, if not mean absolutely just the same thing. But actually, these two economic terminologies are very different from each other.

A need is generally referred to, in economics, as something that is extremely necessary for a person to survive. If a need is not met, it would lead to the onset of disease, the inability to function effectively and efficiently in society, and even death. Needs are categorized into two groups. There are the objective or physical needs, and the subjective needs. Objective needs are those that are met through tangible things, or things that could be measured. Examples of these include food, water, shelter and even air. On the other hand, subjective needs are those that are often seen to ensure our mental health. Examples of these are self-esteem, a sense of security and approval. A political professor, named Ian Gough, enumerated eleven distinct needs that must be met by each and every human being in order to function well in society, and to survive. The inability of meeting these needs can lead to a person suffering from illness (either physically or mentally), or even death.

On the other hand, a want is something that a person desires, either immediately or in the future. Unlike needs, wants are those that differ from one person to another. For example, one person may want to own a car, while another may want to travel to an exotic country. Each person has his or her own list of wants, each with a varying level of importance. Furthermore, wants can change over a period of time. This is in contrast to needs, which remain constant throughout the lifetime of the person.

The grey area between these two, is when the desire to obtain a particular thing is so extremely great, that a person may misinterpret a want, and see it more as a need. In order to know whether what you desire for is a want or a need, is to basically ask one fundamental question: “Have you been able to survive without this?” If your answer is ‘yes’, then what you desire for is a want, no matter how much you crave for it right now.


1. Wants and needs are economic terminologies.

2. A need is something that is necessary for a person to survive. On the other hand, a want refers to something that a person desires, either right now or in the future.

3. Wants are desires that are optional, meaning that you will still be able to go on living, even if the want is not met. On the other hand, if a particular need is not met, it could lead to a person suffering from illness, or even death.

Manisha Kumar. "Difference Between a Want and a Need." June 8, 2016 < >.

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