NEW YORK (BankingMyWay) -- Moms and dads are getting serious about teaching their kids about money, and earlier than ever.

BMO Harris Banksays 74% of U.S. parents either have already cracked open a bank account for their children or plan to.

What's striking from the study is that 44% of those parents (focused on Illinois residents because BMO Harris Bank is based in Chicago) are opening those savings accounts for their kids before they turn 5. That's earlier than most studies indicate, and it's a significant and positive reminder that parents are taking the financial side of their child-raising duties very seriously.

Also see: How Get the Most Out of the Child Tax Credit in 2014>>

"The good news is that many parents have passed that first step -- recognizing the importance of helping their children save, and going into a bank to get started," says Alex Dousmanis-Curtis, head of retail banking at BMO Harris Bank.

As for starting a bank account for a 3-year-old, Dousmanis-Curtis thinks it's a good idea. "It's never too early to provide your children with the financial education that they will carry into their later years, whether it's giving them a small allowance, engaging them in basic money decisions or opening up a savings accounts," she says.

To help with those early banking efforts, BMO Harris offers tips for parents looking to get that early start with their children:

Get a head start. "Seed the ground" by allowing your son or daughter to have a coin or a dollar bill or two. That teaches them the importance of money -- and saving it. "As soon as children start to collect a few coins and understand the value of money, open a savings account for them and explain how interest works," the bank says.

Also see: Even Two-Income Families Find It Harder to Buy a Home>>

Make savings goal oriented. Tie your bank savings program into some item your child wants, such as a new bike or a dollhouse. That makes it easier for kids to understand the value of money and why it's so important to save it.

Blend "gift money" into savings. Any time your son or daughter gets a cash or check gift, split the difference and pop half of it in the bank. The other half can be used on things kids want toys, games and popcorn at the movies. By showing kids there needs to be a balance between spending and saving, you're giving them a great financial life lesson.

As your child grows older, start teaching them their savings can be used in other important life arenas, such as charitable giving and investing in the stock market.