Giving a toddler or preschooler an allowance for helping with day-to-day chores is possible, as long as you keep in mind that her abilities are limited and her “wage” isn’t going to put a dent in the household budget. Getting paid for helping around the house can help a young child feel important and give her a chance to save a little money to buy a few trinkets. Finding suitable tasks for a tot may require a little creative thinking, but you’re sure to come up with some jobs that don’t involve a paintbrush or snowblower.
Speaking in general terms, an allowance — whether or not it’s “earned” — helps teach young children how to manage money and learn to make decisions about how to spend it. Giving a preschooler an allowance gives him a head start when it comes to learning about basic money management skills. Having a little discretionary cash teaches him to make decisions about how to spend his money. If he chooses to spend a month’s worth of earnings on a cool new truck, he’ll be out of money. He may wonder if all of his hard work was worth the purchase, and he may gradually learn to think twice about how he spends his money.
Appropriate Age and Pay
There’s no official age to start giving your child an allowance for chores. However, a 3-year-old is typically ready to receive a minimal allowance for simple household jobs like stacking a pile of lights and darks as you prepare to do the laundry. It’s not as though you’re going to hand over 10 bucks to your little laundry assistant, but he’ll probably be pretty pumped if you give him few coins to add to his piggy bank. Giving your little helper 50 cents to $1 per week for every year of his age is recommended by the American Academy of Family Physicians. A 3-year-old could earn up to $3 per week helping with chores you are confident he can handle, like removing silverware (no sharp knives!) from a cooled-down dishwasher and putting it in a kitchen drawer. A 2-year-old could walk away with as much as $2 each week if he consistently disposes of his dirty diapers.
It’s important for your little one to follow ground rules when it comes to making money for chores. This helps teach your toddler or preschooler to act responsibly. Make sure she understands that there are consequences for reneging on an agreement. You might forbid her from watching a favorite show for a day or two. You also have a responsibility to be consistent when comes to your paying your child for her chores. This helps keep your child motivated to hold up her end of the deal.
Choose a chore that doesn’t end up being more of a headache than it’s worth. Your 3-year-old isn’t going to mop the kitchen floor or scrub the bathtub — at least not up to your standards — but he can pour the floor cleaner (while you supervise) into a bucket of water and hand you the mop. He can also pour a plastic pitcher of water around the tub to remove any cleanser residue. Children should be allowed to spend their money on “fun” things, like a new toy. A visit to a hobby shop has loads of creative ideas that allow your tot to spend faster than you can say “model airplane.” As time goes on, you might encourage your child to open a savings account and donate some of his earnings to a charity of his choice.