It’s important for kids to learn the value of work – even young kids! Here are a few ways young elementary school-age kids can earn money through work.
It was 4:40 PM on a Sunday afternoon as we pulled into our driveway after a long day in the city. The light was dim and the temperature hovered around 36 degrees.
But despite our busy day, cold weather, and barely-there daylight my 6-year-old daughter blurted out: “I want to set up a lemonade stand!”
“Right now?” I asked, bewildered.
I pointed out the obvious – that she was unlikely to get many customers at this time of day and in this weather – but she didn’t care.
Instead, she headed to the fridge and discovered we didn’t have any lemons but we did have 6 limes. Still determined, she got my husband help her slice the limes, juice them, add sugar and water to a pitcher, and get her set up outside.
She sat there for about an hour, commissioned her older sister to make signs which were hung around our yard, and in the end, my daughter had three customers – two dog walkers and a 3-year-old who was visiting her grandparents across the street.
In her mind, it was a success, and that’s all that mattered.
My daughter’s entrepreneurial spirit took me by surprise that day, but I loved seeing her enthusiasm in wanting to set up a small business.
And letting kids experience the creativity and excitement of earning money through work can teach life lessons that can’t be taught in a classroom.
Even though young elementary-age kids aren’t legally able to get real jobs, there are a number of ways young kids can learn the value of earning money through work.
Family Chores vs. Work for Hire
But before getting into the type of work young kids can do to make money, let’s get one thing straight – kids should understand the difference between family chores and work they can do to earn money.
Paying kids for chores not only sends the wrong message about family responsibilities but, according to an article in The Atlantic, “offering children tangible rewards in exchange for caring behavior can erode their innate tendency to help others.” Also, As New York Times columnist Ron Lieber points out, kids may eventually decide that the money they get paid for chores isn’t worth the daily effort.
So what’s the difference between family chores vs. work-for-hire tasks? That’s up to each family to decide, but in general, I use the rule of thumb that with the exception of a housekeeper, if we could hire someone outside of the family to do the task for us then that is a work-for-hire task.
Here are a few ideas of how young kids, about 5 to 9-years-old, can make extra money both at home and outside of the home:
How to Earn Money as a Kid at Home:
Rake leaves: Some families might consider raking leaves a family chore, but for others it’s a task that can be outsourced. Young kids can help with this task and be paid for their effort. Depending on the yard size, parents might still need to get involved in completing the task.
Pull Weeds: No one likes to pull weeds, but kids might, especially if they get paid.
Shovel snow: Similar to raking leaves, shoveling snow might be considered a family chore in some households. But in our house, we hire a snow plow to clear our driveway. While our girls could never do the work of the snow plow, having them shovel the walkway or front steps is something we would pay for.
Wash car: Young kids could easily help wash a car – at least the bottom half, depending on how tall your kids are.
Wash windows: This is another task that young kids won’t be perfect at but can manage to some extent (remember, it’s the effort and willingness to work that count!)
Consign Toys: Kids outgrow their toys after a few years and move onto something else. A great way to help clear out the playroom is to let kids consign their own toys. Not only is it teaching kids to be frugal but also introducing them to the concept of reduce, reuse, recycle.
Recycle: If you live in a state with a bottle deposit law, your kids can collect cans and/or glass bottles and cash them in for 5 or 10 cents each.
Etsy: If kids have a nack for crafts – knitting hats, designing beaded bracelets or decorating barrettes, just to name a few, they can sell their goods on Etsy. For legal reasons, adults need to set up and manage the page of anyone age 18 or younger. Read Etsy’s policy here.
How to Earn Money as a Kid Outside of the Home:
Animal Sitting: Kids can let neighbors know they are willing to take care of pets if there is a need – by feeding, walking or otherwise taking care of the animal’s needs.
Lemonade Stand: The traditional lemonade stand is a time-honored method for kids to make money. While setting up a stand in your neighborhood might be easy, getting a table at a farmers market could be more lucrative. Read how Jack Bonneau began a chain of lemonade stands in the Boulder, Colorado area in this New York Times article.
Puppet Show: If your kid is a natural entertainer, he or she could make money by inviting neighborhood kids to a puppet show and charge admission.
Play an Instrument in Public Place: Kids who play musical instruments can play them in a public space and leave their cases open for donations. An added benefit = extra practice time.
Weeding: In early spring, kids can offer to weed neighbors’ gardens. No one likes to weed and neighbors would likely be happy for the chance to pay a small fee to get this chore done. Offer to weed people’s yards, flowerbeds, gardens and other weeds from their lawns.
Farmers Markets: Some local farmers markets let kids set up tables – the sky’s the limit here – kids can sell their crafts, baked goods, artwork, stationary, etc. Just be sure to look into the requirements and possible expense of setting up a booth first.
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