“I don’t want my daughter to be materialistic, but at the same time, I don’t want her to feel deprived.”
“I feel like my kids think I’m an ATM machine. All they want is more, more, more! I feel like they just don’t understand the value of money, and how hard I’m working to earn it.”
“I wish that my parents had taught me a bit more about money. When I got my first job after college and actually had to support myself, I felt so lost and overwhelmed.”
Sure, a lot of parents try to push their teenagers or college-aged kids to get jobs and earn their own money, but teaching kids about money starts way before then. Luckily, little kids love learning about money…especially if means earning some of their own.
fun ways to teach kids about money
Okay, let’s face it. Most little kids don’t have the skills to actually provide adults (who have money) with something that they couldn’t just as easily do themselves. But from about the age of four, you can still allow them to earn small amounts of money doing things that are somewhat helpful to you.
This doesn’t mean that you need to give them money for completing their own chores — things like putting their own bowl in the sink or cleaning their rooms. Instead, you’ll want to find jobs that are beyond what you’d normally ask a young child to do, but jobs that they can do adequately.
For example, I hate pairing socks. At one point, I paid my four year old two cents to pair all of the socks in a load of laundry. For him, it was a fun activity; for me, it was a chore. Sure, he didn’t do it perfectly, and he still couldn’t actually fold them together well. But he was happy, I was happy, and he learned about money and the fact that he could earn some through the sweat of his own brow. Now, at age six, he’s graduated to folding an entire load of laundry for twenty cents. (Inflation, I tell ya!) It doesn’t seem like much, but we go through a lot of laundry in our family of six, so he can make a couple of dollars in a week or two if he works hard at it. He recently used his money to buy himself a pack of baseball cards for $4.99, and he appreciates those cards far more than if I’d bought them for him.
Kids in elementary school may still be satisfied with making money by doing extra, unexpected chores, just like when they were younger. That might mean cleaning up a baby sibling’s toys, helping with yard work, or washing the kitchen floor — all chores that would normally not be expected at this age.
But some kids like to look beyond their parents for a payout, and they’ll feel great about themselves if they can actually do jobs for which neighbors or extended family members would be willing to pay. Seasonal chores like raking leaves, shoveling snow, or weeding gardens can earn them money from neighbors. They can also offer to walk a dog, plant-sit when another family is away, or even help out with a younger child on the block (with an adult nearby).
If your child has time off of school – in the summer, on a long weekend, or even just on a Sunday afternoon – you can help him to brainstorm ideas about how he can make money to finance a purchase that he’d like to make. Throw out some ideas, focusing on your child’s strengths and interests. Here are a few examples to start you off:
- Making a lemonade stand
- Baking cookies and selling them door to door
- Having a yard sale
- Organizing a car wash with some friends
- Selling crafts on eBay
- Teaching young children the basics of piano playing
- Fixing broken bikes
- Helping bring in groceries from the car
- Selling cold water bottles in hot weather
- Taking orders for homemade pizza slices
Sure, your kid might not grow up to be a hotshot entrepreneur. But the skills that he learns through his own little business ventures at age four, or age eight, can go a long way towards building self-confidence, financial literacy, and the feeling of pride that comes with a hard-earned dollar.